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ON THE SCENE: Beatrice Schachenmayr publishes first book

August 23, 2019
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Beatrice Schachenmayr of Lake Placid has published her first book, the outcome of a two-year effort.

Her book, "This is My World," is not a biography as the title might imply but a compilation of photographs taken over the past three years by refugee children living in Istanbul or Berlin. The purpose of the book is to help would-be photographers see and record the world around them. An added goal is to encourage the young photographers who contributed to this book to keep on taking pictures.

Beatrice's first experience in Turkey was as a student abroad in 2012, then enrolled at Syracuse University's School of Visual and Performing Arts. During her semester abroad, she worked with the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants. She described it as an opportunity that opened her eyes to the harsh daily struggles that refugee youth face. After receiving her BFA in Fine Art Photography, she thought about her experience and determined to return.

Article Photos

Dan Plumley poses with Beatrice Schachenmayr holding her new book.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Zana Briski's film, "Born into Brothels," gave Beatrice the idea of teaching refugee children how to use cameras to learn new skills and gain a bit of control over their lives. She formulated a plan, came up with the project title, "Frame Your Story," created a website, and took on waitressing and other jobs in Lake Placid to earn as much as she could. Along the way, she established a relationship with Arts on Call, a nonprofit group that enabled her to seek grants and donations to help cover expenses and the purchase 15 bright-blue point-and-shoot cameras.

In the fall of 2015, Beatrice returned to Istanbul and once again started working with ASAM's Child Center Space. She began as an observer and teaching English so the children would get used to her, and the center's staff develop confidence in her abilities to work with children.

At that time, the Child Center Space was assisting approximately 500 Syrian children a year and around 45 any given day. As Beatrice settled in, she began introducing the children to the cameras. As she was not fluent in Arabic, she needed a visual tool to help illustrate a way of seeing patterns and textures in nature and methods of framing a photograph. "This Equals That," by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin, became that tool and the eventual inspiration for her book. After six months in Istanbul, following short respite back home, Beatrice shifted her project for the next two years to working with refugee youth from the Middle East and Africa in Berlin shelters.

"I liked the sequence of Fulford and Shopsin's book and the way that it was put together," said Beatrice. "I used it with the kids in the photography workshops I had in Istanbul and Berlin. They responded to it very well, and it was a lot of fun. I thought as a culmination of the four projects we've done that a book would be a great way to close this chapter and an excellent tool to use in future workshops. The photographs are all taken by the youth that I worked with in both countries. These images will help future students learn from what previous participants photographed and thought about during the workshops and their new lives. It will help them learn about the new places they lived and how they addressed the challenges they faced."

Not all of the participants in Berlin and Instanbul were able to have their work considered for the book. Some had moved on, and Beatrice had lost contact with them. Still, she had way more photographs than she could use, many of which are featured on her website. Those whose images were used will receive a copy of the book.

"Throughout the project, I'd have coffee with the older kids," said Beatrice. "We'd talk about who we are and what are our hobbies. I've learned about the people that they are beyond the workshops. I've learned that we're not so different. I'm always surprised by how much we have in common even though our lives have been so different. Their work inspires me. They are inspired as well. A young Armenian woman, and a young man from Kenya, recently told me how much this project has impacted them and how excited they are by what we've been doing."

Next for Beatrice is going to graduate school in Cork, Ireland to pursue a master's degree in art therapy. She said that her work with youth has helped her realize the healing value of the arts. She said she wants to pursue different media such as painting and ceramics as well as photography. Her goal is to continue working with young people and ideally with people of differing ages coming from a variety of backgrounds.

Critical to her work with refugee youth was the support she received from her parents, family and friends. Beatrice also expressed gratitude for supporters such as Dan Plumley of Keene, Sikie Steinberg who designed the book, and Jennifer Jubin, who wrote the poetic introduction. She expressed great appreciation for institutions such as the Adirondack Foundation, Arts on Call and the Keene Valley Congregational Church that provided funding and guidance and helped her make connections.

"I may be the one that's out there, but it's all these hands that are pushing me along saying, 'Go do it.' Their support made me feel that it's OK that I'm doing this, and that it's a step in the right direction for helping people who can benefit from self-expression."

"Beatrice's work, and the photographs taken by the youth have helped me and others see refugees differently," said Plumley. "I decided to support her because Beatrice is an enterprising young talented woman with a dream to help people. That's rare. The project just came on the heels of so many years of the refugee crisis. Millions of people are being moved out of their homes and countries due to war, famine and climate change. It's only going to increase. Beatrice's project directly empowers refugee children to take charge of their own lives amid the storm they've been brought into. She helps them learn how to use a camera to frame their life and find a path forward. It's a wonderful project that she's carried off very professionally under difficult settings. Helping he was a complete no brainer. It was a project I just had to support."

Beatrice's book is available at The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid and the Book Nook in Saranac Lake.



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