With messages written in bold characters on their arms and faces and a host of diverse stories to recount, students and faculty members gathered at Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday to partake in the photographic project “Dear World” of artist Robert X. Fogarty.
Throughout the day, Fogarty took photographs of dozens of Harvard community members, which he then showcased in the evening in a keynote address and slideshow at the John F. Kennedy Forum.
“I take people’s portraits, but they are not just any portraits,” said Fogarty, whose art consists of photographic snapshots of subjects with messages written on their skin.
“I ask people to share one message about someone or something that matters to them,” he said.
Fogarty’s project began in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as “Dear New Orleans.” In Louisiana, Fogarty took portraits of hurricane victims, firefighters, and volunteers. The project eventually expanded to become “Dear World.”
Scott J. Yim ’13, whose message read “You can’t always tell,” explained how people sometimes go through difficulties that are not immediately noticeable by others.
Yim recounted his experience coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community at the end of his sophomore year.
“It was quite a struggle, but I was fortunate enough to find amazing teammates, roommates, and friends,” said Yim, who has since spearheaded the production and distribution of “It Gets Better,” a video meant to provide encouragement to those who may be undergoing similar difficulties.
Kennedy School students Federico E. Cuadra Del Carmen and Pinar A. De Neve came to the forum in the afternoon to have the message “Help us, help others” photographed. The phrase is the motto of a global health non-governmental organization that both students work for.
“Our organization started off by fundraising for other NGOs—hence the motto,” De Neve said.
Harvard Divinity School student Jane L. Wolfe, who is 47 years old, teared up as she narrated the story behind her message, “GED to Harvard: Here I am. Yes you can.”
“I waited 32 years to get an education,” said Wolfe, who is the mother of two children and survived Hurricane Katrina. “The way you are going to make an impact is to go out in the world, and serve, and share your education with others. You can wait 32 years and still make an impact.”
Kennedy School student Jenny L. Mallamo said that she was happy to hear of her classmates’ stories “through a few simple words about where they want to go, what they have done, or what they do right now.”
“You, the people I photograph, have the ability to inspire and to lead us,” Fogarty said in conclusion to his address. “I hope we recognize that we all have voices and stories to tell.”
—Staff writer Antonio Coppola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AntonioCoppolaC.