Photography professor's work in Burkina Faso offers students a one-of-a-kind experience
David Pace visited Burkina Faso for the first time in 2007 and fell in love with the place and people. Soon after, he and Santa Clara University Associate Professor of Economics Michael Kevane created the Reading West Africa study abroad program. The program combines academic work on developmental issues of West Africa with immersion and community-based learning in rural villages to give students a unique learning experience.
Students take a diverse range of courses, from French to economics to photography. The students? main project for the quarter abroad is to create two photo books that reflect their time in the villages.
"The photographs the students take go into a book to create a story. They use their French language to write the text, and their community-based learning experiences in the village helps them to connect with people and figure out what they want to talk about," Pace says. "They really have to come to an understanding of village life to create the book, but then the book goes back into the library so that it's something for the people in the village to look at and see stories about themselves."
A global community
Students integrate entirely into the life of the villages. Meeting villagers, helping children learn to read, and working in the libraries are part of the immersion process, which culminates in the photo book -- a gift that the students can give back to the communities. This gift reflects the students' "relationships with people and their understanding of village life and the communities there."
The connection with the local communities remains one of the key reasons behind Pace's passion for his work in Burkina Faso. "When I go there now, I don't feel like an outsider anymore, so I'm able to photograph the kinds of things that no one coming from the outside would be able to do," he explains. He is proud of how the program has continued to improve each year, and looks forward to continuing for many more. "Since I've started I've been back at least once every year," he says. "I just fell in love with it. Haven't missed a year."
See Pace's work:
Friday Night photo essay: Scenes from a friday night dance party in Burkina Faso.
David Pace Photography: Pace's website, which includes pictures from Burkina Faso, Cuba, Italy, and El Salvador.