The issue of sustainability, especially from an ecological perspective, is rapidly becoming one of the top concerns in the global consciousness. The "going green" agenda and such films as An Inconvenient Truth by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore have enlightened average Americans to a cause that some other countries have been profoundly aware of for many years. Norway has been one of the leading countries in sustainability research and ecological consciousness since the defining Brundtland Report in 1983. In February 2008 the Global Crop Diversity Trust built the Svalbard International Seed Vault on Spitsbergen, the first large-scale seedbank designed to withstand catastrophes like nuclear war. Tomra, one of the world's top companies for recycling innovation, is based in Norway. However, the question of sustainability is complex in Norway, where a government strongly invested in biodiversity still mandates a quota on Minke whale fishing. Also paradoxical, Oslo is currently the city with the highest cost of living in Europe, and the Norwegian economy is booming mostly thanks to their lucrative oil reserves. My goal is to investigate the broader meaning of sustainability and to compile a photographic document of the current trends of environmental consciousness in Norway.
As a student ambassador for the US in Norway, I can act as a liaison for communication between the two countries. A greater philosophical understanding of the concept of sustainable development has helped me realize how much all of the world can benefit from sharing ideas. I can think of no better country in which to conduct my research than the homeland of world-famous philosopher Arne Naess, developer of the Deep Ecology philosophy. My project will allow my own American ideas and concerns about sustainable development to mingle with the Norwegian mindset. The final project will enlighten citizens in both countries and inspire more creative solutions to issues like global climate change, increased socioeconomic inequality, and the energy crisis.
I hope to be enrolled in the Culture, Environment and Sustainability Masters of Philosophy degree program at the University of Oslo. My intensive study of Sustainable Development will inform my project and facilitate connections with Norwegians who specialize in this field of study. My photography project will reciprocally inform my research, perhaps even finding a place in the completion of my thesis. Thanks to a Norwegian initiative for furthering higher education, study in this degree program at the public University of Oslo will not incur any tuition fees. The Fulbright grant will financially support my first year of study in this program by covering my travel and living expenses and the expenses involved in carrying out my photography project. I plan to apply for an American-Scandinavian Foundation grant to finance my second year living in Oslo. Art is a crucial medium
To make myself more competitive for this graduate degree program, I am currently enrolled in two Environmental Studies classes at Rochester Institute of Technology. Next quarter, when I will complete my degree in Photographic Illustration, I will take another liberal arts class called Sustainable Development. Professor Harold Wilhite of the Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM) at the University of Oslo, has agreed to affiliate with me if I am accepted to their graduate degree program. This summer, I plan to enroll in the University of Oslo's International Summer School Intensive Elementary Norwegian language study program. This program will teach me the basics of Norwegian grammar, and provide me with a level of proficiency necessary to engage in conversation with native speakers. Until then, I will continue my self-propelled language study using Pimsleur teaching aids while practicing conversational Norwegian with those individuals I have met in Rochester who speak the language.
My studies at SUM will give me a deeper understanding of the complex concepts of Sustainable Development. This expanded knowledge will help with the creative aspect of my proposal. I will make a large series of photographic portraits to illustrate excerpts from interviews I will conduct with Norwegians from a broad sociological spectrum. I plan to meet and photograph students, corporate executives, scientists, teachers, artists, activists, and random people I meet anywhere and ask them one simple question: how do you define sustainability? This will serve as a jumping-off point for a more lengthy conversation about an issue that concerns us all. Connections with teachers and peers at the University of Oslo will be invaluable networking resources for finding apt candidates for portraiture. Already, my mentor here at RIT, Chip Sheffield, has put me in touch with several Norwegian individuals who have knowledge and insight regarding sustainability. In fact, he may be able to put me in touch with Gro Harlem Brundtland herself. Environmentally-conscious groups, such as the Norwegian Society for Conservation of Nature (Norges Naturvernforbund), The Green Warriors of Norway (Norges Miljøvernforbund) Zero Emission Resource Organisation (ZERO), and Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom), might also be able to supply me with contact information for other potential portrait subjects. I will offer copies of the photographs I make as compensation for my subjects’ time. I also plan to visit the offices of the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment and other government agencies dedicated to environmental protection. The promise of a professional, flattering portrait will be an important bargaining tool in making appointments to photograph businesspeople or political officials, especially.
The final product of my photography project, including the interview texts and photographs, will ultimately be a book. I have communicated with two different artist book publishers on the subject -Visual Studies Workshop Press and Preachers Biscuit Books. An online self-publishing source such as Lulu.com may also prove a venue for printing the finished product. The book will also be available on the web either through a university’s website or my own for easy access to all interested parties. I have some experience in two-dimensional and graphic design from my classes at RIT. I also plan to ask colleagues who work as graphic designers for input on the layout of the final book.
Colorful environmental images and other photographs from my travels around Norway will accompany the portraits of Norwegians. The book will be an exploration of sustainability from all perspectives and aspects. I intend to keep any and all travel stubs, tickets, receipts and found objects that I acquire while I am doing research and photographing individuals in Norway. I will make use of Norway's extensive train transport system. For meetings to photograph Norwegians in more remote areas, I may need to rent a car. When the time comes to compile the book, I will use the innate impulse for collage that pervades much of my work to add visual interest using these elements. The portraits may be interspersed with more reflective pages of collage and travel notes. In this respect, the final product will have a personal touch that I hope will intrigue my readers and remind us that despite some of the larger-than-life rhetoric used to describe sustainability, the concept is truly about each one of us and our children.