The Painter and the Photographer
“I find post-its too constraining.”
I looked at my collaborator for the next sixteen weeks with a bit of dismay, and inhaled deeply. Hearing that one’s primary design tool would not be useful to the person with whom I was assigned to collaborate with can elicit a set of emotions ranging from panic to frustration.
As I exhaled, I was reminded of a walk I had shared with designer Behnia Rahman, my partner for the Coaniqum “Safe Niños” project. It was late in the afternoon, almost evening, and the sun was dropping below the Pudahuel horizon as we traversed the Coaniquem campus. “See, you’re like a photographer, trying to capture what is actually there. I’m…more like a painter. I see what’s there and then I add my own piece to it.” I nodded in understanding. We continued to walk in silence as I let Behnia’s observation sink in. Approaching CasaBierta, our home for the two weeks we lived at Coaniquem, a few of the families staying there were hanging by the playground out front. Sharing dance moves with one another, Behnia walked over to them, a smile on his face. Pressing his hands together in a praying position, Behnia rotates one of them 180 degrees, slides his hands up his forearms, then creates a perfectly orthagonal box as he raises his bottom arm up. Deftly popping his hands together, he presses them together again, making a rainbow over his head and rotating them in a circle as he circles his head in the opposite direction. The kids, the parents, all break into smiles, Behnia’s love for life and playful character infecting them all.
Me, I’m the son of a Hindu expat from India and a Sicilian American from New York, who grew up in Texas. Behnia, he’s an Iranian Muslim immigrant who’s English improves every day. His Spanish comes courtesy of Google Translate, but the language of play, Behnia is fluent in it. Watching Behnia laugh and joke while showing a wheel chair bound boy named Fabian how to do the dance he had shared, I realized I could learn a lot from Behnia’s free spirited approach to life, and design.
The photographer and the painter. It’s a dynamic that I’ve come to accept, and hopefully, by the end of this effort to better the experience for the people of Coaniquem, one that I’ll come to embrace.
(sketch by Illustration Student, Lori Nishikawa)
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