Traveling is life in double time. You live a year in a month. Youth choose this intense experience for many reasons: they are free, they want to prove themselves, or they want adventure. Many for the first time find themselves asking basic questions of survival. “Where am I going to eat?” “Where am I going to sleep?” “How can I keep safe?” Traveling isn’t all fun and games; all the protections of normal life are gone. Backpackers: Youth in Europe is about the coming-of-age experience of youth as they travel. The exhibit has two parts, audio and photographic.
The photographs show the freedom of being young, the elements of travel, and the world travelers pass through. The audio portion is an experiment, pairing the linear with non-linear. Since listening to the audio occupies time, it invites introspection and contemplation. Hearing the people in the photographs speak allows a connection and understanding that isn’t possible with the image alone.
This project was novel for me. Never before have I been so completely involved in a story. I was the story. I was a backpacker. I didn’t have the comfortable distance of being the photographer. I hung out with people I met, then photographed and interviewed them. I was a backpacker first, photographer second. I was completely dependent on my fellow travelers. When I needed food or was lost, they would help me. If I were feeling lonely or hurt, they would listen. People were kind and loving. I became good friends with everyone I met. I would like to thank all of those who supported me while I was in Europe: BYU Art History study abroad, the Swedish, the Canadians, the Germans, and the French.