Alumni photo project to raise awareness of global issues

Three recent Elon graduates are trying to raise funds for travel to three developing nations later this year for a "photovoice" project.

From left: Maggie Cissel, Meagan Harrison and Annie Huth are planning a Photovoice project in at least three developing nations.


To three alumnae of Elon University’s class of 2012, photography is not only a hobby and passion, but a way for marginalized people around the world to tell their stories and impact their communities.

Meagan Harrison, Annie Huth and Maggie Cissel are preparing to spend the next year traveling to at least three nations to put cameras into the hands of young people, asking them to tell personal stories through photography.

Known as “Photovoice,” a type of community action initiative first developed two decades ago, social activists typically teach citizens basic photography and storytelling skills and facilitate discussion about the photos and issues brought to the table throughout the project in the hope of prompting social change.

Harrison, Huth and Cissel have dubbed their initiative the Look Out Loud Project, which involves connecting all of the communities participating in the project to each other, and then back to their home country through blogging and social media messaging.

“Our goal is to start a global conversation about issues and aspects in different communities and make people aware of both the similarities and differences in different places amongst different cultures,” said Harrison, who deferred graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University in order to facilitate Look Out Loud. “We want to emphasize through this that every voice is important and everyone has their own story, and they should primarily be the ones telling those stories.”

Harrison said the trio plans to launch several projects while abroad. The alumni want to see the organizations with which they will work continue to use the cameras and upload photos to the Look Out Loud blog to generate international conversations about everyday life and issues.

One of their goals is to have photography exhibits in each community after completing the project.

Collectively, they have been involved in previous Photovoice projects in Honduras, the Philippines, India and Burlington, N.C. All three were in India together over Winter Term 2012 — Harrison doing work for her Lumen project, Huth with class of 2012 Periclean Scholars and Cissel as a videographer.

On the upcoming trip, Harrison and Cissel will join Huth, who will already be in India as a 2012-2013 Elon Post-graduate Fellow at the Comprehensive Rural Health Project. From there, Harrison and Cissel will travel to the Philippines to work with the Stairway Foundation and to Guatemala to work with Los Patojos (The Little Ones).

They plan to connect community members from the various Look Out Loud locations, as well as partner with classrooms in the United States who want to engage in the storytelling and conversation. Upon returning to the United States, the group expects to set up photo exhibits, create short documentary films of the different locations they visit and make a photo book with pictures and stories from their trip.

In addition to working jobs this summer to save money for the project, the trio organized a Kickstarter campaign that will end July 28. They must raise their $10,000 goal by that date to receive their backers’ funds through the website.

“We’re not going to raise the $10,000 with one or two donations,” Harrison said. “Similarly, information on these communities shouldn’t come from one or two media voices. We want to be hearing from everyone. We’d rather see 1,000 people donate $10 each to raise the money than only have a couple backers. That’s the key.”

To contact the Look Out Loud Project, email