A CreativeLive Student Story
To complete her Egyptology degree, Seattle native Genevieve left the Pacific Northwest for Cairo in 2003 to finish her studies within 15 miles of the Pyramids of Giza. There she learned to live like a local, becoming a regular at small family-run restaurants and chatting with charming doormen and tea sellers.
A few years into building her resume as an Egyptologist, Genevieve started a personal project that landed her in Northern Pakistan where she worked on a women’s mountain climbing magazine, buying her first DSLR to photograph the trip. On a misty morning, Genevieve woke to a gorgeous view and the lush landscape sparked a fire in her to document the everyday lives of people who lived in this region that looked nothing like the media’s images of life in the Middle East.
She realized she was not just documenting, but actively shaping a narrative. “All I wanted to do was to shine a light on the stories that aren’t being told and break down the misconceptions that cause so much fear. I realized then and there that we as people are way more alike than we are different.”
With newfound purpose, Genevieve worked on sharpening her storytelling skills any chance she had. She was on location in Korea when news of the Arab Spring swept the airwaves.
From coverage of the demonstrations, Genevieve noticed that these historic events were happening where she had spent countless hours, in the city she had called home, and she felt an undeniable urge to go back.
[It] was very personal for me. I knew those walls, and felt so compelled to be there.”
Deep into the work, she realized two big gaps: community and the resources to push her skills further. When a friend recommended CreativeLive for the free photography classes, Genevieve instantly connected to a tribe of likeminded storytellers.
“CreativeLive was that missing piece that I needed - this community of photographers, this group of creative people that I could use as a way to learn and grow.”
Tuning in to live broadcasts from halfway across the globe gave Genevieve a restorative dose of home. And particularly on days when moving about the city was difficult, Genevieve would focus on her work and tune into on-air broadcasts.
With this new resource, Genevieve set out to capture images in order to tell the story of what was really going on around her, using her images to explain the nuances that her personal account could not describe in such detail. In fact, a real grounding point for Genevieve’s career began when she noticed that the difference between her experience, and images she took to describe it, told a much different story than those of the international news media sent to cover these events. She remember talking to people back in the States, noticing that “people had so much fear because of all this sensationalism, which I knew from personal experience had really been all about selling this event and creating a fear to justify it” explaining, “I would be in my apartment on the Square with the TV on, and they would make this announcement of ‘Fifty thousand people gather in Tahrir Square to demonstrate’ and then I would look outside and see about fifty people gathered and yelling around one news camera with a big zoom lens on, compressing the background.”
“Having that sense of normalcy and instant community to tap into, even though CreativeLive has people from all over the world - brought me a sense of home because I could ask questions, and interact with people while learning things that I could go out and put into practice the very next day.”
On her quest to tell the visual story of what was going on around her, to give the world all the nuances from her lens in vivid detail, she saw more and more the stark contrast between her images and those from the international media covering the same events.
Determined to counteract the negative spin, Genevieve began shooting War on Walls, a photo series that leveraged her background in Egyptology to document the extraordinary street art emerging in scope and content as the Arab Spring progressed. Since its completion, Genevieve has exhibited and made a book on War on Walls, of the same name (2nd edition currently in production), and started a lecture series to discuss the artistry and the messages that inspired these street artists to bare the souls and dreams of the Egyptian people's revolution.
Genevieve continues to open hearts and minds to the Middle East. With the success and elevated platform of her photography, Genevieve launched ArchaeoAdventures, a female-centric travel company that leads small groups of female travelers on tours of the Middle East and North Africa. She recommends female travelers visit this part of the globe especially.
“There's just so much misunderstanding, I’ve traveled all throughout the Middle East by myself - as a woman - and I still think it’s the best place to go all by yourself.”
These tours uniquely employ local female guides, who share the intimate knowledge of their home countries, creating an authentic experience for everyone involved.
Be it her photography or film, Genevieve's groundbreaking work reveals a narrative of the world as authentically as she sees it, and one that she invites people to experience firsthand.
“I’ve always been a storyteller at heart.”
Understanding this about herself, coupled with the people she met and the places she travelled to, compelled Genevieve to become the photographer and videographer - the storyteller - she is today.