The Aperture Project: Opening the Eyes and Minds of Young People.

The Aperture Project

Opening the eyes and minds of young people through photography

The Aperture Project - Opening the eyes and minds of young people through photography

Project Update: We’re back!

keep-calm-we-re-back-15It’s true. The Aperture Project went on a bit of a hiatus for a while, but we are back, moving forward and making huge leaps of progress in turning our project into a reality.

So where did we go? To be honest, during the last couple elections, I went through a period of deep introspection. I saw our country divide deeply over issues of race, fairness and equality, the environment and women’s issues. I witnessed political pundits, and still do, take absolute fictions and deepen that divide by getting both sides to argue along the periphery versus finding issues in which all Americans could unite. They blended politics and religion when it served their purpose and then argued for the separation of those when it did not.

I was utterly dumbfounded by how we all, including myself, were sucked into arguing about our differences that I ultimately convinced myself that based solely on what I was witnessing that this project was doomed for failure. I felt that we were slipping backwards as a society and I became very disheartened. How could I transform the world by connecting children and young people based on their similarities and inclusion when we as adults were hell bent on dividing the world based on our differences?

I thought to myself, “The world doesn’t want this. People don’t care, so why should I.”  Unfortunately, for a brief period of time I slipped into a world of cynicism and resignation. I lost sight that change is possible and even a single individual can change the world for the better.

Regardless of these setbacks, the dream of The Aperture Project never left my heart, and over time I realized it was exactly these things that convinced me that the United States and the world needs this project now more than ever. We live in an amazing period of transformation and change in which we need to realize that despite our differences we as human beings are far more alike than different. If we can find ways to relate to one another based on those commonalities, then we can do great things in the world!

Please join me in moving The Aperture Project forward and making this world a better place. Thanks!


Capturing a moment in time: when writing meets photography

Jill captures real moments, places and people through the lens of her camera and her writing as she travels and makes connections around the world.

By Jill Kozak

A writer by nature, a photographer by accident, is what I tell people. I set out for my round-the-world trip in January 2012, taking a lovely Canon PowerShot A2200 along for the ride. The results have been good, my photos capturing moments in my travels I cherish, people I’ve met along the way and places I hope to see again.

When I set out for my journey, I believed that I would work and write my way around the world. As fluent as I am in the written word, I realized that what sets my travel writing apart are the poignant photos that accompany my pieces.

There are times when I stand stunned at a beautiful sunset, when I think no photo can do the moment justice. This is the photographer’s job: to catch a moment in time so that it might be remembered later. In times of sheer, unadulterated beauty, sometimes it’s best to leave the camera in the bag and live the present.

Other times I am overcome by a duty to freeze action so that I can reflect on it later. There is a visceral quality of photography that cannot be replaced. While writing tries to explain with words a vision for the mind’s eye, a photo gives a bit of an edge so that one can properly visualize a place, a moment, a memory.

Some of the best photos I’ve taken while traveling have been spontaneous. All of the best photos of me have been taken in a moment of exciting adventure, the signature “smile and pose” technique falling to the wayside.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Australia that I even began to consider myself a photographer. Before my trip, I was just a writer who happened to tote a camera around. It was that trip, in particular a visit to Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens, that changed my mind about my talents. Not only could I write about an experience, but I can explain, through photos, what it was like to live a moment.

Since embarking on my journey, I’ve been pleased with the sentiment that I am a writer and a photographer. I’ve learned that the two often go hand-in-hand. Where the written word lacks, the photograph sustains and vice versa. It’s a symbiotic relationship of the most artistic type.

As a photographer, a writer and ultimately an artist, I’ve been able to connect with other people from all over the world with my work. I wrote a piece that just recently got published in Native Foreigner Magazine, an online travel-zine featuring some of my photography from Bondi and Coogee Beaches, located on the eastern shores of Sydney, Australia.

I have also connected with other artists on a personal level, most recently a painter friend of mine wanting to adapt my photograph into a painting. The connection between us has grown more personal now that we are collaborating on an art project, of my photography’s derivative.

Photography and writing has given me the unique outlet I had been searching for my whole life to become worldly and connected. Before traveling, I yearned to have international friends, photos from abroad and stories about my trip. Aided with both tools, I’ve been able to view the world as a real place, full of real-life experiences, all of which are waiting to be captured by me.

Photography is special because it aims to focus on real moments and places. When you pair the visual of photography with descriptive, poignant writing, what you have is the closest approximation of what it was like to live a moment. The coming together of forces is powerful and often very moving.

Always a self-proclaimed writer, I’m now proud to call myself a photographer as well. It’s my hope that my life story continues to unfold and flourish with the help of my allies: the word and the photo. I am reliant on the quality of both to convey the breadth of my experience while traveling.


The Nature of Dominance and Bullying

What I have learned at the dog park also holds true on the playground: Bullies prey on the weak

My observations of the nature of dominance and bullying at the dog park and how it applies to the playground.

By Tom Rooney

While on my morning walk with my border collie, Sadie, we encountered another dog walker. And when doing so, I usually take the opportunity to say hello and give the dogs an chance to greet one another as dog do. You never know exactly how this will turn out because every dog reacts to one another a little differently but I think it is important for the socialization process.

Anyway, as the dogs come nose to nose. They greeted each other with tail wags and I assumed that this encounter like most of them will turn out amicably and we, as dog owners, would walk away with that warm fuzzy feeling knowing that our dogs are pretty darn cool. But it didn’t really turn out that way, the moment Sadie turned her back, the other dog began to lunge at her aggressively, growling and bearing her teeth. The process repeated itself 3 or 4 times.

The other dog owner, obviously a bit embarrassed by his dog’s behavior, suddenly asks me, “Is your dog an Alpha?” “No,” I replied, “Just the opposite in fact.” “You haven’t bred her or anything?” he retorted. “No Never.” “Wow,” he asserted, “my dog usually doesn’t react that way unless the other dog is an alpha.” At which point we wished each other a good day and continued on our walks.

I began to think about his comment and realized that he really misunderstood the nature of dominance and bullying. And let’s face it, his dog was just a bully. The one thing I do know about bullies it they typically don’t go after the their equals or those that appear stronger than them; they prey on the weak. They look for individuals in which they feel that they can assert dominance over and do so through various forms of aggression.

Now I am not saying that bullies never face one another, because on occasion they do. And this usually results, both at the dog park and on the playground, in a brawl of some sort. and when this happens, teachers or pet owners often rush in to break it up. The kids are sent to the principle’s office while the dogs are usually reprimanded, leashed up and lead out of the park. In case of the bullies, and sometimes in the case of the dog, there is a clear winner and they will stay away for one another at that point.

However, the process of bullying is much different. In the case of a dog, it may entail the dominant individual roaming around the park mounting the less dominant individuals. Dog owners nervously laugh, make jokes and do their best to break the routine and say, “Dogs will be dogs.” But on the play ground or in the classroom it will manifest itself in the form of wedgies, name calling and vicious rumors etc. but essentially the behavior is the same. These kinds of things rarely happen to the kids that are confident, wear trendy clothing or appear to have a strong social network. It’s usually that kids that are smaller, less confident, less social that are the focus of this kind of aggressive behavior. And despite the increasing awareness of bullying, I still find that some parents approach bullying the same way dog owners do. They nervously laugh about it; tell stories of what they when through as children and say, “Well you know, kids will be kids.”