“Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, color and creed. Deep down there is no difference.” -The Dalai Lama
I’m the girl who always has a camera in hand. I love everything about photography and it brings me great joy to take portraits of others or photos of my surroundings. Photography has an incredible capability to capture the smallest of moments that are often missed, whether it be a facial expression or how light filters through trees at a specific time of day. I often create different projects that I work on over periods of time to keep my creativity flowing. Before going abroad I had an idea in mind to start a series of portraits, taken of strangers that I would encounter while traveling around Europe. I originally thought it would be a good way to meet new people from all over the world, but once I actually arrived in Milan, this idea evolved an entirely new meaning. It hadn’t dawned on me the number of people I would be meeting, and from all different kinds of backgrounds. I also quickly realized how that even if these people lead completely different lifestyles than I do, there will always be something we can connect over because in the end we are simply, people. We might have different religions or skin colors, and we might say hello in different languages, but that’s what should bring us together. Being abroad has especially opened my mind to how important it is to accept these differences with open arms. We always have the opportunity to learn from others and in the process learn more about ourselves.
Among the photos in this series, some are candid and in some I have asked the person if I can take their picture. I think it's interesting to notice the difference in facial expressions when people don't know they're getting their photo taken vs. when they do. I also like observing how people react when you ask to take their picture. Just the simple question usually turns into an entire conversation, because by taking their photo, a barrier is broken that makes them more willing to share their stories. I haven't been turned away yet!
With this project, I hope to portray that it shouldn’t matter where a person is from, but rather we each have unique features and qualities that contribute to the beauty of humanity. I decided to keep the photos in black and white because color can sometimes be a distraction and I want the focus to be solely on the person. It also helps to convey the message that there are two sides to humanity - the colorful side that keeps us diverse and different, and the black and white side that keeps us uniform - as we are all part of one human race. Our differences should be embraced, and not ignored.
If you're studying abroad, I challenge you to talk to someone new everyday. Even if it's just small talk with a waiter or the person standing next to you on the metro, there's always so much to discover even from the simplest conversations. And maybe you'll even make a new friend! The more we know and understand about our differences, the more accepting we will be and the more we can get out of our study abroad experiences.
To keep up with my project, check out the album on my Facebook page, Abigail Grinberg Photography!
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Abigail is our 2016-17 IES Abroad Blogger of the Year! Abigail studies Economics and International Studies with a minor in Business Administration at Brandeis University—where she is also an IES Abroad Ambassador. As a Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 Blogger, Abigail illustrated her year abroad in Milan through her insightful posts and candid photography that navigated her growth in the historical city of Milan.