Saturday, June 30, 2012

Info-murals Go to School

Posted by Artis LangBruttig & Brittney Terry, SAN IGNACIO, BELIZE --As a part of a community mapping program sponsored by Georgia State University's Geosciences Department we traveled to Belize for two weeks with 21 other students and two professors. One of the major objectives of the trip was to help the Cornerstone Foundation map social service and HIV/AIDS treatment locations so their clients can have one cohesive resource guide. HIV/AIDS treatment and support facilities are in high demand in Belize as HIV/AIDS sweeps through the country.

During our fieldwork, we discovered some informational murals about HIV on the side of the St. Andrews school as children ranging in age from 5 to 14 years were enjoying their recess. These empowering and direct murals were among the most progressive we saw during our trip. The two St. Andrews students pictured in the photographs were eager to socialize with us and take us around the murals. They are likely a pivotal generation in efforts to curtail HIV in Belize. Perhaps as they grow up they will create their own info-murals throughout the region.

Artis LangBruittig and Brittney Terry are graduate students in the Sociology Department at Georgia State University and are also receiving a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the Department of Geosciences. Artis can be reached at and Brittney can be reached at

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sheep Crossing

Posted by Angie Luvara, ON THE ROAD IN WYOMING -- Several times during the course of my cross-country trip last summer we had to slow our progress, and car, to avoid hitting animals in the road. These were not wild animals—no bears, no deer, no turtles—these were numbered cows and sheep—someone’s farm animals. Growing up in West Virginia, I’m no stranger to stray farm animals, so my first instinct was always to look for a broken section of fence. But I could never find one because there were no fences at all.  In fact, there was never a barn either --  nor any sign of civilization for that matter. Perplexed by these clearly tagged animals roaming free, we began to postulate about their freedom. Did they escape and travel far from their owners? Were there invisible fences that they somehow crossed? Our best, and most realistic guess, was that farmers or ranchers out West own so much land that it would not only be extremely expensive, but also nearly impossible to fence their animals in. We guessed that this would especially be the case in situations where the farmer owned the land on both sides of the main road, probably like in this photograph.

Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral Student at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Off the Grid and On the Road with One Radical Grandma

Posted by Chandra Ward, ATLANTA, GA -- Living off the grid typically refers to a lifestyle without electricity, one using alternative energy sources. This phrase also refers more broadly to a lifestyle detached from as much dependency as possible on our late-stage capitalist system -- for example through rural and urban homesteading. It can also mean living and traveling in a vegetable oil-fueled, solar-powered statement of a truck like Xan.

I met this 60 something year-old grandmother, who describes herself as a radical lesbian feminist, at a recent women’s writing conference just south of Atlanta.  But before meeting her, I met her truck.  It was an Isuzu commercial brand that had been “tricked out” in a very radical but socially-conscious way.  As I circled the truck I saw proclamations of resistance against Monsanto, patriarchy, war (written in both Spanish and English), as well as declarations for an end to racism, poverty, police brutality, and violence against women and children. The truck was essentially a mobile billboard of resistance run on biodiesel fuel, with modest but homey living quarters powered by roof-top solar panels. She told me that the converted truck was the product of some resourceful work done by herself and another like-minded friend with many materials others might consider trash. Xan had just driven from California to Georgia. Given the anti-establishment slogans scrawled all over her truck and the extent of her travels (all across the Americas), I asked Xan if she gets pulled over a lot. She said she used to, but not anymore. 

Xan made me think about how our lives -- at any age -- are an unlimited world of non-establishment possibilities. Xan is now one of my heroes -- and I hope there are many more fearless, feminist, and free-spirited people like her out there. Xan left Atlanta to return to California about two weeks ago with her three year-old grandson. Hopefully she will send me some snail mail updates about her new off-the-grid and on-the-road adventures.

Chandra Ward is the Assistant Editor of Social Shutter and a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Organic Bowdoin

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, BRUNSWICK, ME -- I was lucky enough to attend Bowdoin College and will always think of it as a special place. It's a place where learning seems organic and ever growing. I went back for reunion recently to see old friends, and during that great but rain-soaked weekend stumbled upon something I hadn't seen before -- something that immediately captured my never-ceasing Sociological imagination. It was both a place and a communal space. It was the Bowdoin Organic Garden.

True to the organic spirit of the college, the garden was begun by a group of earthy, enterprising, and environmentally-conscious students in 2004 with support from faculty, administration, and dining services. It was developed as both an educational and production garden where students can learn organic agricultural techniques, as well as give something tangible back to the community. The first soggy soil harvest sent some 700 fresh tomatoes into the dining halls. Now 64 different crops are harvested. The produce -- delivered green by bicycle cart -- is split between the dining halls, the college food co op, and the local Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program 

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Peace through Process

Posted by Angie Luvara, ATLANTA, GA -- One of my favorite things about photography is the ability to preserve single events in time for eternity. As a result, one of the most important skills I’ve developed is the ability to be present, with a camera, and yet not disrupt or impact anything I’m trying to document. Of course, there are some instances where invisibility is more important than others. Perhaps because of some sort of artists’ empathy, the time I feel this pressure the most is when I’m present during the writing and recording of music.

Despite my desire to remain unseen during this critical part of the creative process, this is also the time when I take some of my favorite photos. Recently, I was organizing my digital portfolio and I noticed a theme. Nearly every time I’m present during this portion of the music process, I snap a photo of the artist’s songbook. From handwriting, to the way it’s organized, to the odds and ends nearby, a songbook tells a lot about an artist and their process: from whether they smoke or drink while writing to whether they keep their songs organized in a single notebook or grab the nearest napkin and have at it. Perhaps that’s why I love documenting it. For me, creating art is much more about the process than the finished product. In the process is where an artist finds their peace.

Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral Student at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at