Student Union - Tyler Cacek

Tyler Cacek
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Life Lessons
A freshman at Western Kentucky University, Tyler comes to his photojournalism studies with a head start. He spent the past summer in Africa, part of the time in Uganda as a volunteer for the HALO (Helping Art Liberate Orphans) Foundation, implementing a program he’d started called Cameras For Children that put donated cameras in the hands of former child soldiers and street children. He also photographed in Rwanda, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he covered the effect of recent conflict on the local population of North Kivu province.

Tyler got his first camera at 14, and says that photography has helped him see his place in society. At first he was “more into the art and nature side of photography;” then he took a high school class that focused on humanitarian issues. “That really got me thinking about what I might be able to do,” he says, “and about how my pictures could help people. Then I heard about what other photographers were doing—people like James Nachtwey and the other conflict photographers from VII Photo Agency—and I was inspired to go and do that myself.”

All Photos © 2009, Tyler Cacek, All Rights Reserved

Tyler found that the real situations of conflict photography are often different from his, and others’, perceptions. But he’d expected that. “A lot of photographers glamorize the work done in places of conflict,” Tyler wrote from Africa, “but it really isn’t a glamorous job at all. I had the idea that it wasn’t going to be what the world thinks it to be, but I knew that it was exactly what I want to do…”

The photos here are from Tyler’s two months in Africa. His access to the people and places was the result of making connections with American aid organizations and, at one point, U.N. peacekeepers. “If you’re a journalist and you feel you have a story that you need to cover, you’ll find a way to open up doors,” Tyler says. “In [Africa] this summer—that’s really where I found my passion and my vision for what I want the rest of my life to be.”

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