Lindsey Leger is a photojournalist and picture editor. She studied abroad in 2011 with the CIEE Language and Culture Program in Amman, Jordan. We spoke with her about her experience as a photographer and about how her CIEE program impacted her career path.
CIEE: How long have you been pursuing photography?
Lindsey Leger: I became interested in photography when I took a darkroom class at the community college I was attending during my senior year of high school. Around that time I realized I had a fascination with, and maybe some small talent for, learning languages, I loved to travel, and I thought that photography could be a way to tell stories and do these other things. Another thing that happened was that I started photographing my brother, who has autism. It became a way for us to have a conversation that didn't need language, and for me to show other people what he was experiencing.
CIEE: Did you work on photography/media projects during your CIEE program? How did your study abroad experience influence your career path?
LL: One of CIEE's elective course options was to do an internship with a local business or NGO. The CIEE staff paired me up with Viva magazine (a women's lifestyle magazine) and I started writing for them. Under the same publisher was JO magazine, a cultural and political magazine. I met with the editors and they took me on as a photographer, so I was able to keep working in Jordan after my classes finished. It was sort of a crash-course in working as an international journalist. I'm sure it's helped get my foot in the door for the jobs I've had since then.
It's hard to quantify how my study abroad experience shaped my life; I met some of my closest friends, it changed me as a person, and I think I have the career trajectory I do because of my decision to live in Jordan.
CIEE: What subjects do you enjoy most? What’s been one of your favorite projects so far?
LL: The subjects that interest me most are women's issues, religion, health and the environment - all the things you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table. When I went to Jordan, I knew I had an interest in women's issues, but I really had no idea what to expect, and I wanted to have an open mind. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of news stories related to conflict in the region, but my real interest is in these everyday moments that make up the fabric of communities. I try to look for things that make circumstances seem relatable, and I try to look for things that would be compelling to local viewers - because that means I'm hopefully not just seeing things as an outsider anymore.
Wa'ed al-Houri, 29, stands in front as her other team members help each other put their gear on before heading back into the minefield in Jaber, Jordan, on July 6, 2011. With temperatures in the summer climbing to 40 C and wearing heavy protective gear, taking frequent breaks is essential to their safety. The women work for Norwegian People's Aid on an all-female team clearing a minefield on the Jordan-Syria border. Photo by Lindsey Leger
LL: One of my favorite assignments for JO magazine was photographing the team of women removing land mines on Jordan's border with Syria. They all came from a village called Jaber. They were different ages and had different reasons for being there, but they all spoke about wanting to keep their community safe; many of the mines were just meters from houses and grazing areas, so it was a threat to civilians. One woman's father had been injured by a mine and that inspired her to sign up for the job; another woman had defied her parents' wishes by working there, but they eventually came around and admired her decision; others talked about social stigma and rumors they'd experienced as a result. But it worked because the job was close to home, and it alleviated some of the anxieties they might have about mixed-gender work settings. They also had a strong camaraderie that came from looking out for each other all the time.
CIEE: Do you have any new projects/ventures on the horizon?
LL: I've been working as a picture editor in Washington, DC, for the past few years. I miss being behind the camera too much, so in January I moved to Turkey to pursue freelance work again. I've made trips to Jordan and Turkey over the past couple years, and finally feel like this is the right time for me to make a change and this is the right place for me to be.
Caption: Iraqi refugees attend literacy courses at a UNICEF women's center near Amman, Jordan, on June 22, 2011. The women's centers, which are set up in Iraqi communities and Palestinian refugee camps around Jordan, provide child care, classes, and a supportive environment for women. The women laughed and talked about how nice it was to have a break from their kids and husbands. Photo by Lindsey Leger
You can view Lindsey’s work at lindseyleger.com, or follow her at @legerphoto (Instagram) or @leleger (Twitter).
CIEE alumni: tell us about the work you're doing now, and how your CIEE experience impacted your career path, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.