Photography Exhibit Celebrates Multiculturalism

Multicultural photography

Three students capture diversity in portraits

“Diversity is not what separates us, but what binds us.”

“Culture is beautiful. Experiencing new things eliminates ignorance . . . .”

“Each of us in our own way lives/breathes/exudes our culture. . . .”

“I learn the most about myself when I am in relationship with people who are different from me. . . .”

You might call it a virtual conversation.

Currently a wall on the second floor of Brandel Library is strewn with small, multicolored squares of paper—messages left by observers of an intriguing photography exhibit that has been housed in the display area since January. The photographers—students Eric Staswick; his wife, Bethany Crino Staswick; and Lucas Larson—invited the viewing public to respond to the question, “How and where do you experience multiculturalism in your world?”

It is a question they, too, had to ask of themselves when they set out to capture in portraits the diversity that characterizes North Park’s Chicago neighborhood last August. Although it remains a work in progress, the exhibit—titled “60625,” in honor of the area’s zip code— continues to promote dialogue as people come face to face with the challenging and inspiring realities of what it means to live in multicultural community.

“Realizing the incredible multiculturalism and ethnicity that surrounds us, we became filled with the desire to tap into these cultures and discover the stories of people around us, where they come from, and what dreams and ambitions have brought them to transition their lives to this particular area of Chicago,” the photographers note in their artist’s statement.

The portraits represent cultures from every continent, and each composite in the exhibit juxtaposes images of the subjects in modern street clothing against images of the same individuals in authentic dress from their native countries.

“Our goal wasn't necessarily to tell the participants' stories, but rather to show that they have a story that runs a lot deeper than one might initially perceive,” Larson describes. “The North Park and larger 60625 community is a living example of the tossed salad America became after millions immigrated here years ago. This area is rich in diversity and holds experiences as unique as the individual.”

North Park University helped sponsor the work, which currently includes a number of photographs of faculty, staff, and students. The Staswicks and Larson also plan to apply for grants to expand the exhibit and have it displayed in different parts of the city. It will remain on campus through April.

“This project has become a chance for us to join with our multicultural friends, classmates, professors, and neighbors, and in a small way, help share their stories with our community,” the trio explains. “We ultimately hope that these photographs will act as a catalyst to cause our community to be curious, start asking questions, and make an effort to get to know the people around us—sharing our life stories and learning from each other.”