Jim Tuttle (right) interviews a student of the Liberia Visual Arts Academy.

By: Jim Tuttle, Accountability Lab Visual Storytelling Fellow. This blog post was originally published by the Newhouse Center for Global Engagement.

Earlier this summer I lived in Liberia for about 10 weeks, working as the multimedia resident for a NGO called The Accountability Lab. I’d like to thank AL and the Newhouse Center for Global Engagement at Syracuse University for making this wonderful opportunity available. 

It was an excellent learning experience, and a great chance to push my visual skills and portfolio forward. My projects there included filming a music video in an abandoned Monrovia hotel for a Liberian musician named Amaze, documenting various special events and developing promotional videos for AL’s partners.

In addition to photography and video work, I helped organize an accountability-themed art exhibition for a talented group of Liberian painters. It was great making friends with creative people and eye-opening to learn about the considerable challenges they face simply because of where they live. Art supplies are hard to come by in Liberia, and many people in their society do not regard art as a worthwhile pursuit.

This was my second time visiting Liberia, having visited for about two weeks in late 2012 to work on a video project with two other Multimedia Photography & Design graduate students and Professor Ken Harper. Since then, I felt connected to the people and places I had found there, and I was happy to have a chance to return.

That first trip was an amazing whirlwind and it sparked my interest in Liberia. This time around, I had the benefit of more time to settle into daily life and could get to know more people on a deeper personal level. I was also able to take on some freelance assignments while I was there, which was a step forward in my career as a photographer and filmmaker.

Jim Tuttle is a graduate student who completed his coursework in the Multimedia Photography & Design department at Newhouse in December 2013. More examples of his work from Liberia and elsewhere can be seen at www.iamjimtuttle.com.