August 16, 2019

Helping People in Recovery Gain Confidence in Oregon

Geoffrey Hiller, an alumnus of the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program who travelled to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Vietnam on his exchange programs, wanted to make a difference in his community. As a participant in the April 2018 Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) held in Cleveland, Ohio, he received a small grant to host an “Art of Recovery Photography Workshop” over the course of three months in Portland, Oregon. His goal was to use photography as a therapeutic tool to help people who are in recovery gain self-confidence through the act of photographing portraits of locals and tourists — and thereby engaging with those community members.
“Being outside and walking around taking photographs has a way of releasing chemicals in the brain that can help foster well-being,” Hiller said in his project proposal. “Our goal is to show that picture-making can become a transformative process.”
Alumni TIES is a series of regionally focused seminars that provide alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs with opportunities to learn about key regional issues, receive training specific to their seminar, and collaborate with fellow alumni to implement projects in their communities. These three- to four-day seminars take place in six world regions and the U.S., and include expert speakers, site visits, networking activities, and opportunities for interacting with U.S. communities. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.
During the workshop, Hiller took the group on photography walks, reviewed their images, and worked with them on image processing and editing. He noticed participants began to bond and open up about their struggles and situations; he also noticed them becoming more comfortable in their community. Overall, the work produced by the participants far exceeded Hiller’s expectations — and his workshop participants agreed.
“I think there really is a link between making photographs and recovery,” one workshop participant said, adding that mindfulness is key to both. “You need to be in the moment to capture the moment. It’s not necessarily about being happy — it’s about being mindful.”
To see the photos created by the “Art of Recovery” workshop participants, check out Geoffrey’s website here:
To see other work by Geoffrey, follow him on Instagram (@hillerphoto) and Twitter (@hillerphoto).
This is a modified version of a story that was originally published on World Learning’s Medium blog:

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