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Voices from South of the Clouds at George Eastman House
Herding Sheep by Kang Wenming, a 25-year-old Yi man from the village of Xuehua. He says, “I am herding the sheep high on the mountain.When looking down, I am very impressed by the beautiful ocean-like clouds.”

NEW YORK.- George Eastman House will transport visitors to the Yunnan Province of China via the exhibition Voices from South of the Clouds, on view through May 28, 2007. The display of more than 30 color photographs taken by the local people (many of whom had never used a camera) — all using Kodak cameras and film — also features accompanying first-person stories.

The photographs depict the rich cultures and religions of villagers, including the striking natural diversity of their surroundings, and the joy, hardships, and rhythm of their daily lives. The focus is on their everyday activities, such as harvesting vegetables, herding cattle, playing instruments, and weaving blankets. Also featured are ceremonies, such as funerals and weddings, all set against the lush landscapes of southwestern China.

Voices from South of the Clouds, presented in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, is the result of an innovative project called Photovoice, which uses photography to enable villagers from many of the Yunnan Province's minority cultures to document their lives and secure their participation in conservation efforts in the region. Photovoice is part of the Yunnan Great Rivers Project, a collaborative effort between the Chinese government and The Nature Conservancy, an international organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life on Earth.

Eastman Kodak Co., the exhibition’s sponsor, has been supporting the Photovoice project for many years, providing cameras, film, and processing. Villagers are provided point-and-shoot cameras and one roll of film per month with which to chronicle their daily lives. At the end of each month, the film is developed and the photographers describe the images and their contexts to project facilitators. The photographs are then shared with policymakers to help them make informed decisions about environmental, social, and economic development issues.

“No one could anticipate that a project started as a conservation tool would develop into something more,” said Linda P. Sweeting of The Nature Conservancy, Central and Western New York Chapter. “These photographs of everyday life have vividly captured the region’s remarkable natural beauty and rich cultural legacy.”

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