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Paz a través de mis ojos (Peace Through My Eyes), Verena Bunge & Elana Hazghia’s 2009 Project for Peace

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The fourth exhibition of Peace Through My Eyes: A photographic story told by the children of Guatemala will be making its next stop in Saratoga Springs, NY! The opening night will take place on Thursday, October 15th from 7:00-9:00PM at Case Gallery in Case Center at Skidmore College (815 N Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866).

The exhibition will feature photos from the kids in Guatemala City and San Marcos La Laguna and prices will range from $30-$100 and tapas will be served at the reception.

The press release is now featured on Skidmore’s homepage and can be seen here:

“Opening reception for Peace Through My Eyes: A Photographic Story Told by Guatemala’s Children photo exhibit. Created with $10,000 of funding from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace and completed by Elana Hazghia ’10 and Verena Bunge ’11 in Guatemala during the Summer of 2009. View photographs created by children in Guatemala and order prints the proceeds of which will fund the purchase of water filters for community member of San Marcos La Laguna. Exhibit runs through October 29, 2009.”

As always, a preview of photos can be seen here:





A unique voice on PEACE will be arriving in Great Neck, Long Island on Thursday, October 1st, 2009. This voice and distinct perception of peace comes all the way from Guatemala, from the young minds of Guatemalan school children.

Peace. What does this one word mean to the children of Guatemala? How do children attending private school in Guatemala City perceive peace? And how do the indigenous children in Guatemala’s rural village of San Marcos La Laguna interpret this word?

Elana Hazghia and Verena Bunge traveled to Guatemala this past summer to find out.

Hazghia and Bunge returned from Guatemala with a diverse array of answers, in the form of the Peace Through My Eyes: A Photographic Story Told by Guatemala’s Children. The collection is a product of a three-week long summer arts program—organized and led by Hazghia and Bunge—run for the two groups of Guatemalan children, ages 13-16. Both groups—the children at the Guatemala City private school and the indigenous children from the village of San Marcos La Laguna—were taught essential photography skills and were prompted to take photos of subjects that represented peace to them.

To view a sneak peek of the photo collection and share with your friends via Facebook and Twitter, click here:

Photography from Peace Through My Eyes is available for purchase at the exhibit’s opening. Proceeds will go towards continuing the photography program for the indigenous children of San Marcos La Laguna, specifically by hiring a local artist/photographer to run the photography-centric arts and peace program throughout the year. Proceeds will also go towards purchasing water filters for the families of the indigenous children in San Marcos La Laguna.

Opening Night Details:

WHEN: Thursday, October 1 @ 6 pm- 9 pm

WHERE: Great Neck Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Rd.  Click here for directions to the Great Neck Arts Center.

HOW TO RSVP: Space is limited, so please RSVP to

PRICE: Free to enter, however, photography from Peace Through My Eyes is available for purchase at the exhibit’s opening. Proceeds will go towards continuing the photography program for the indigenous children of San Marcos La Laguna, specifically by hiring a local artist/photographer to run the photography-centric arts and peace program throughout the year. Proceeds will also go towards purchasing water filters for the families of the indigenous children in San Marcos La Laguna.


5575_1162345702018_1329090745_30814242_4256681_nThe second exhibition in Museo del niño, Guatemala City

We’re still alive!

If you’ve been wondering about the kids’ photos, don’t worry, we’ve been dying to reveal them to everyone.  We still can’t though.  Sorry.  But we can make a deal.  You can see a SNEAK PEAK of some (and when I say some I mean SOME, few, just the tip of the iceberg) if and only if you PROMISE to come to one of three exhibitions (depending on where you currently reside).  Your current options are Guatemala City, Great Neck NY (October 1st), or Saratoga Springs NY (October 15th).  More information about specific locations, times, and dates are under the “Exhibitions” link on the panel above.

Ok do you promise?

Ok I’ll show you.







If only there were words to describe how the exhibit went!   “Success”  just does not do any justice to the event and our entire experience in San Marcos.  The kids all arrived promptly at 6:00 at Paco Real and the tourists and locals started to flood in from there.  We were estimating a grand total of about ten people to attend if we were lucky, but the place was packed!  Paul, the owner of Paco Real expressed to us earlier that usually “non-gringo” locals such as our students never step foot into his restaurant and we were very excited to see all different kinds of people interact at the exhibit.

The kids were proud to be the “fotógrafos famosos” for the night.  Locals and tourists came up to them just to tell them how incredible their works were and their faces immediately lit up from their praises (lets just hope the fame doesn’t get to their heads).

We were happy to have some of their family members come to the exhibition as well.  They expressed their gratitude and how much their brothers and sisters enjoyed the program.  It was great to know that their families were so supportive throughout the whole process.  Some of the kids expressed to us that their families were right behind them every step of the way making sure they stayed on top of their work and stayed dedicated to the project.  And their hard work really showed–some of the tourists thought that we took the photos and it took them a couple of minutes to realize that all of the photos were taken by the kids.  Those who came to the exhibition seemed extremely interested in the program.  What’s so great about San Marcos is that there is a strong sense of community.  Of course there are those locals who don’t like that there are so many tourists in the village, but most people love that there’s so much interaction (whether it be through business, volunteer programs, Spanish lessons, etc.) between the different groups of people.  But for the most part, foreigners that have settled down in San Marcos have made great efforts to respect the locals and engage in multiple community service projects.  Everything just came together perfectly last night.  We will be leaving some of the photos with Paul and Kathy who will hang the pieces up in their restaurants and continue to sell for us.  We can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for us!

Luckily “los famosos” made it to class this morning after their big night out.  We took the time to interview some kids and print out some photos that they recently took of their families.  We also surprised them by printing out a bunch of pictures that they took in the past three weeks to put in their photo albums.  The kids seemed a little upset that the program was coming to an end but we made a little deal with them.  We left some cameras with Paul of Paco Real and he will “rent out” the cameras to the kids for the day.  We told them that if we raise enough money, we will hire a local photographer to keep the program going so that they can continue to develop their skills.  The three weeks flew by and we only scratched the surface of their incredible potential as artists and photographers.  Although verbal expression isn’t really their forté, some of their expressed their gratitude through letters and one girl even made personalized weaving for us! (it was adorable, we’re keeping them forever).  They are all wonderful kids who grew incredibly attached to the program, and we hope that we can find the means to continue their studies in photography.

So what now?  The program in San Marcos ended, but this is only the beginning my friends.  The American School just finished up their program as well and another school in Guatemala City expressed so much interest in the program that they will be starting a similar program as well in July.  The exhibit in San Marcos was unexpected and went so well that we’re thinking of putting together an additional exhibit in Guatemala City.  The exhibit in Saratoga Springs is still on for the fall and now it’s just a matter of printing, printing, printing an exhibiting.  We were blown away by their works and we can’t wait for all of you to see the final products!

Stay tuned for more updates on the kids in Guatemala City, as well as a potential mural project with the City and San Marcos kids!

We said this earlier in the post, but there really are no words to describe how well everything went in San Marcos.  We were both literally speechless by the end of the night.

THANK YOU THANK YOU to every single person that has supported us (friends, families, teachers and program directors in San Marcos and Guatemala City, all of our professors and advisors at Skidmore, Kathryn Wasserman Davis, etc.)  We were so lucky to have everything fall into place so well and for that reason we’ve really become attached to San Marcos and all of the other towns we visited on the lake (we’re still pretty partial to San Marcos though).  San Marcos is really a hidden treasure with incredible people and the potential to grow with the right kind of help.

Hasta pronto!


p.s. Remember, we’re not done…keep reading!




Today’s class was dedicated to preparations for our very exhibit tomorrow in Hotel Paco Real here in San Marcos.  But before class today we had some time time to take photos and talk a little more with Savina, Claudia M, and Ruth.  We told them to take us to their favorite spot in San Marcos.  They led us to the lake through this beautiful path that we have never seen before.  We set up camp by some rocks and let them take pictures while bearing a little task in mind.  We wanted them to take the most creative pictures  from the most obscure and unique angles they can possibly think of.

The girls started off taking pretty safe pictures, but with little guidance they started stepping out of their photographic comfort zones and enjoying it WAY more than we thought they would.  The girls got extremely creative with the flowers and leaves around them, throwing them in the air, arranging them in interesting patterns.  Claudia even stuck a flower stem in her mouth!  Even though they thought it was the most hilarious and ridiculous thing she could have done, they all produced wonderful photos while laughing themselves to tears.  The giggles didn’t seem to wear off once we sat down to talk with them.  It didn’t really matter that we didn’t have the serious type of talk that we had with Maria on her one on one because we got to see their lively personalities and enjoy some downtime with them outside of the classroom.

Today, the kids helped us make some signs to put up around San Marcos advertising the exhibtion.  They also signed their prints and helped us choose some more pictures that they want to show in the exhibit in Saratoga Springs.  We could tell that the kids were not happy that the classes were coming to an end.  They continue to ask us what is going to happen to the cameras and as of right now, the only thing we can do to ensure that the cameras will be in safe hands is to leave a couple with Paul, the owner of Hotel Paco Real so that the kinds can sort of “rent out” the camera and bring it back to him at the end of the day.  We are also leaving some cameras with the American School in Guatemala, since they will be using them to add a photography component to their community service projects.

The last thing we want to do is end the program so abruptly with the kids when they have grown to love photography so much.  We have decided that once we have raised enough money to buy water filters for the families of all children involved in the project, we are going to begin allocating funds to sustaining a photography program in San Marcos.  This would require a teacher’s salary and some additional funds for printer upkeep.  We hope that the exhibition here in San Marcos and Saratoga will be successful enough to continue at least one year of the photography program.

Please continue to check in to read the kids’ writings about peace under the “Discussions” link and we will let you know how the exhibition goes tomorrow!  The kids are absolutely thrilled for their premiere debut!

-Verena & Elana

Subtitle: Hidden Treasure in San Pedro La Laguna






After a weekend in Guatemala City, we came back to class this morning well equipped with some of the kids’ developed photos for them to see and critique before the exhibition in Hotel Paco Real on Thursday.  The photos look GREAT, you should all really consider flying to Guatemala/taking a boat to San Marcos for the exhibit (free tapas!)  Anyway, we brought the photos to class and the kids’ faces lit up when they saw their photos out one by one.  We asked for the group’s feedback, and although there were more kids that spoke up this time (refer to our first not-so-great critique on May 29th), others were still timid.  An important lesson that the kids are catching on to is the importance of acknowledging subjectivity when critiquing art and photography.  What we may love as teachers may do absolutely nothing for one of our students, but that does not mean that we are “correct” in any way.  For example today we held up one of the photos that we printed as a great example of a closeup, and one of our students thought it was boring.  But we made sure to acknowledge and commend her for expressing her opinion and let her know that there is no true “good” or “bad” when it comes to art.

After the mini critique and presentation of their work that will be exhibited on Thursday, we presented them with our little task for the day: a photo scavenger hunt (“Veo Veo”).  But before we let them loose on their scavenging adventure for the day, we noticed that they wanted to go over to the next town in San Pedro La Laguna.  We weren’t exactly sure why at first, but then we remembered that before we went on our excursion last Friday to San Juan, we said that if we had time we would go over to San Pedro.  But since time flies when you have fun, 11:00 rolled by on Friday and we couldn’t make it to San Pedro.  It was pretty impressive that the kids held us to our tentative promise.

Verena then had a stroke of genius and decided that there was no harm in us having the scavenger hunt in San Pedro.  In fact, San Pedro was a great setting for the list of tasks that we had for them because it is a larger town with a more active marketplace and filled with color.  We stressed the importance of interpreting the tasks however they liked, not to take things so literally, and to be creative and imaginative.  Just for your viewing pleasure and to get a better idea of what we were looking for, here is the list that we gave them:

Tomen las siguentes fotos: (Take the following photos)

  1. La cara de alguien de cerca de 3 ángulos (A closeup of someone’s face from three angles)
  2. Algo que cuenta una historia (Something that tells a story)
  3. Que tenga rojo, verde, morado y amarillo en la foto (That has red, green, purple, and yellow in the photo)
  4. Pies y/o zapatos (feet and/or shoes)
  5. Algo que le enseña San Pedro a un extranjero (A photo that shows San Pedro to a stranger)
  6. Una sombra (A shadow)
  7. Una tradición o ritual (A tradition or a ritual)
  8. Haz que algo se vea chiquito (Make something look small)
  9. Manos agarrando algo (Hands holding something)
  10. Solamente ojos (Only eyes)
  11. Algo que tenga patrón (Something that has a pattern)
  12. Una figura que se repita (A figure that repeats itself)
  13. Algo o alguien de atrás, cerca y lejos (Something or someone from behind, both close up and far away)
  14. Algo que te hace reír (Something that makes you laugh)
  15. Comida típica (Traditional food)
  16. Una persona de San Pedro, sin posar (A person from San Pedro, unposed)
  17. Un extraño, sin posar (A stranger, unposed)
  18. Algo oxidado (Something rusted)
  19. Algo triste (Something sad)
  20. Varias figuras: círculos, triángulos, cuadrados (Various shapes: circles, triangles, squares)
  21. 3 expresiones de cara diferentes (Three different facial expressions)
  22. Algo hecho a mano (Something made by hand)
  23. Un beso (A kiss)
  24. Una planta de café (A coffee plantation)
  25. Rayas (Stripes)
  26. Que se enfoque en los detalles de un objeto (A photo that focuses on the details of an object)
  27. Algo morado (Something purple)
  28. Dientes (Teeth)
  29. Una puerta vieja (An old door)
  30. Que enseña la soledad (A photo that shows loneliness)
  31. 16. Que enseña la paz (Something that shows peace)

(We had to throw that last one in there just for kicks)

As we walked around and checked in with the kids’ progress, it looked like they were doing well with some tasks, but struggling with others.  What we noticed was that they were having trouble with tasks that asked them to capture more abstract concepts such as loneliness and sadness.  The problem was that they were reading into the task too much and kept asking if it was ok to take certain pictures.  We stressed once again that there was no wrong answer and they had the freedom to interpret things however they liked.  We also started to notice that many kids were relying on the most obvious shapes and colors around them and we pointed out some different examples to help them out.  For example, if we wanted them to find a pattern, it would be really obvious for them to take a picture of a fabric pattern.  But what about the pattern of veins on a leaf?  Or the pattern the several leaves make when they are near each other?

This was a great exercise for them and we really think that it pushed their conventional perceptions of not just shape and color, but of how to capture emotion in a picture.  “Something that makes you laugh” doesn’t mean that you have to take a picture of someone smiling, “a kiss” doesn’t necessarily have be a literal kiss, and “a circle” doesn’t mean that you need to take a picture of the basket sitting right in front of you.  The kids were glad that they got to go on another little adventure, and we were glad that they started to really open up their artistic boundaries.

As for the upcoming days, we are busy mounting photos for the exhibition and filiming for the documentary.  We absolutely cannot believe that this is the last week and feel as though there are so many more activities we can do with the kids, but we are extremely proud of their progress.

Until then, please check out the “Discussions” link at the top of this page to see our first entry from one our students about peace.  It is a poem written about Maria.  Commenting is not just limited to students involved in the project, pease feel free to comment on her poem as well as the others that will be posted in the upcoming days.

Hasta miércoles!

Verena & Elana





After the kids had their own excursion to an ecological park on Wednesday with the rest of their classmates, we decided that we needed a change of scenery as well.  Earlier this week the gracious owner of our hotel, Paul, suggested that we take the kids to another town nearby named San Juan La Laguna where they can take pictures of the plantations and a local market.  Paul along with the help of his friend Chris arranged our transportation to San Juan and the kids were eager and ready to go on Friday morning.  Little did we know that our mode of transportation was a pickup truck!  There was space for us to ride in the seats of the truck, but we decided to get in the back with the kids (when else are we going to have the chance to ride in the back of a pickup truck with 15 of the most talented photographers in Guatemala?)  We had the BEST time with the kids on the way there.  We sang song after song with them all the way there, and we enjoyed every second of it.

First stop, the plantation!  Before we entered the fields, we made sure that the kids were keeping the theme of “paz a través de mis ojos” in mind.  Whatever peace meant to them, we wanted to see those thoughts manifested in a photo.  We also stressed the fact that these pictures had to illustrate life in Guatemala, San Marcos La Laguna, and Lake Atitlán to people who have never been here.  “Uds. son los representantes” (“You guys are the representatives”) we told them, but they had to convey that message through their photography.

The kids had the freedom to wander around the plantation, amongst the workers and through the fields.  We began to notice that the kids were really taking note of our past lessons by taking their time and moving their body to find new angles.  We then drove over to the center of San Juan La Laguna where the kids had a chance to walk around the market.  San Juan was the perfect setting for their photos, with beautifully painted and vibrantly colored buildings and beautiful locals dressed in their traditional attire.

The trip to San Juan was a success and we could see that the kids really enjoyed themselves.  Since next week is the third and final week of the project, we gave them the assignment over the weekend to write a paragraph, poem, or any other kind of written prose about what peace means to them.  Once they get their thoughts down on paper, it will be easier for all of us to have a better idea of what exactly they want to display at the exhibition.

As for this weekend, we are back in Guatemala City and beginning look through all of the kids’ photos and preparing for the exhibition.

If anyone is in the area of San Marcos on June 11th please stop by Hotel Paco Real at 6:00 for the kids’ first exhibition!  We will be paying for the flights of the first 100 people who express interest in coming! (Just kidding, don’t take that seriously)

More updates to come!

V & E

p.s. Our blog is now featured on Skidmore’s website!!!