How do you teach a course on material you began learning one month ago? I found myself in this predicament shortly after I began my journey into the world of photography. Before DukeEngage, I had no experience in photography. My relationship with cameras not attached to a cell phone was nonexistent. My coworkers at the Gallery of Photography handed me my first ever digital camera, tripod, and Photoshop manual. I was tasked with photographing tours, pieces on display, and exhibition openings. My coworkers patiently taught me how to compose these photographs, how to take them from better angles, and how to adjust different types of lighting. They then taught me how to use photo editing skills, such as Photoshop, to enhance the images I had created.

I practiced this with multiple images, both in the gallery and on my spare time. I was fascinated by how easily an image could be manipulated. Moving a few steps forward or adjusting the shadows and highlights could transform a mediocre moment into a once in a lifetime snapshot. After a few weeks of learning these techniques, it was time for the true test of skill: teaching them to others inexperienced in photography.

I was tasked with designing, coordinating, and leading photography workshops with migrant youth. I was to teach them how to take better photographs and use photo editing skills to construct photomontages that represent their unique identities as individuals and as members of the migrant community in Dublin. Luckily, I had two of my fellow DukeEngage students by my side throughout the workshops. I taught them the skills I had learned and relied on them to support me through the workshops by keeping the students’ attention focused and giving them personalized attention when they had questions about the cameras and their tasks.

I was nervous throughout the workshops, but I was encouraged by the reactions of the students who loved being exposed to new fields and who were fascinated by the world exposed through a camera’s lens. I went through each presentation with growing confidence. Together, we went over the basic logistics of using a digital camera, self-curating images, and identifying objects, people and places that can represent someone’s identity. They were delighted by the cameras they were loaned and loved taking portraits of themselves, their friends, and images they found interesting in the gallery as practice.

They were even more delighted when we went on a photo scavenger hunt throughout the city center so that they could become accustomed to the photographs. In total, 10 students took over 260 photographs in the span of 1 hour and 15 minutes. They grew more confident in their images with every passing shot, with some going as far as to crouch down on sidewalks or ask passerby if they could photograph their dogs. I was overjoyed when they said they were excited for the next workshop, where we could begin superimposing the images they had taken to tell their personalized photostory.

The Gallery of Photography addresses a new social issue every day. Whether they are displaying digitizing photographs of migrant communities, exhibiting artful photographs of different borders in Ireland and beyond, or introducing photography to migrant youth, the gallery is making an impact on the community. I feel extremely grateful to take part in the social change happening and I love witnessing the impact the photographs we take and display have on the Dublin community. Working here has reawakened my passion for working with youth and has inspired a new appreciation for photography as a medium. I look forward to each day at the Gallery of Photography and hope I can continue making an impact throughout the remainder of my time here.


Throughout my first week in Ireland, I felt as though I was plunged headfirst into an environment a thousand miles away from my comfort zone. I was hesitant and wondered how could I, a first generation, low-income student who had never traveled outside of the United States before, be a positive contribution to a community I have never lived in? I arrived at the Gallery of Photography, a not-for-profit organization which focuses on multiple social issues, with this hesitant mindset. I wanted to make myself useful. I wanted to be a positive force in my workplace and help advance the gallery’s social goals. Yet, I was unaware of how I could begin to accomplish this feat in unknown territory.

My fears were vanquished the moment I entered the gallery. I was greeted by smiling faces, colorful photographs covering every inch of the walls, and enough work to keep my mind too occupied to doubt myself. The gallery always has a new event occurring. They feature exhibits on photographs from students who have recently graduated from art schools in Dublin, migrant issues in the form of photographed borders and digitized family albums, and LGBT+ rights. My first 2 weeks working were centered around constructing a new exhibit around this last theme.

Gay Community News (GCN) is Ireland’s oldest LGBT+ magazine. Originally established in 1988, it was founded by Tonie Walsh and Catherine Glendon when homosexuality was criminalised in Ireland. GCN began as an 8-page black-and-white newspaper and has grown to be a 130-page magazine sent to thousands of individuals across Ireland for free every month. Each issue of this magazine has become bolder. GCN continues to grow and challenge the norm. In their history, there is a clear trend from asking for acceptance to challenging social norms and paving the way for a happier “rainbow society,” as Tonie Walsh loves to say.

The Gallery of Photography made it possible for members and supporters of the LGBT+ community in Dublin to see the culmination of 30 years worth of struggle, sacrifice, and victory framed for all of Ireland to witness. Individuals such as Senator David Norris, who fought for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland, were able to witness this symbol of respect and progress for the LGBT+ community. In addition, the names of contributors to GCN surrounded the walls in red and black text. Photographs of active members of the LGBT+ community in Dublin surround three walls and parts of the ceiling.

The Gallery of Photography contributed to this community by showcasing their accomplishments in a beautiful manner easily accessible to the public. I was a part of this experience. I witnessed the effects of photography firsthand. I saw it in the faces of every individual who walked into the gallery. I saw it in crying faces who could not believe they were seeing their community represented. I saw it in couples laughing and holding each other when they saw themselves framed on the walls. I saw it in myself, when I realized I developed the confidence to walk into the gallery, do what was needed, and ask a senator to take his photograph.

Photography changes the lives of those who see themselves, their communities, and their identities reflected through the lens of a camera. It has the power to change lives by leading social and cultural change. I was wrong to worry about being a positive contribution. At the Gallery of Photography, there is so much work to be done for the community that time to worry is a luxury we cannot afford. I am grateful to the gallery for the opportunity to work there and show Ireland the faces of silent communities. I am excited for the work that is to come.