Last March, Sasha Sicurella journeyed to Mumbai, India, the second most populous city in the world, to launch the I AM project. In Mumbai’s intensely overcrowded slums, Sicurella found impoverished children caught in a regimented school system. She recalls, “These kids didn’t necessarily know where they were getting their next meal, didn’t necessarily have shoes, but despite that, they were sponges for knowledge and any kind of creative experience.”
For the “I AM: India” self-portraits series, Sicurella asked students to stand in front of a camera connected to a handheld remote control. Snapping their own photos gave the children a feeling of empowerment and control over their destiny, says Sicurella. “Having creativity, one-on-one contact, for someone to pick you out of a crowd and say, ‘You’re an individual, you’re special,’” produced a positive change in the children in only a few days.
After her success in Mumbai, Sicurella, the education director at Omi International Arts, established the I AM International Foundation. Over the next 10 years, Sicurella hopes to bring the project to 52 countries. She plans to go “wherever the need is greatest,” and would also “love to do this on a really local level, like I AM: Hudson or I AM: Great Barrington.” She travels to Africa this October for I AM: Ethiopia.
“I AM: India” will be exhibited through June 4 at the Charles B. Benenson Visitor’s Center and Gallery at the Omi International Arts Center in Ghent. www.artomi.org.