Student captures life behind the smiles

Soft music played, hugs exchanged, and smiles graced the faces of John Brown University students who had the opportunity to view Erika Forney’s senior photography exhibition.

Opening-night students stood in anticipation lining the entirety of John Brown’s Windgate Visual Arts East. Forney’s showcase titled, “Your Story Matters” on Jan. 19, 2015, told a story beyond the photos that were displayed.

As they saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and those words tell us a story. Forney’s vision behind the project was to showcase how everyone deals with their struggles and that no one is alone. Forney displayed her vision by photographing students from freshman to seniors at the University and have them share their personal stories and weaknesses.

“I have always struggled with thinking that my struggles are bigger than everyone else’s,” Forney said. The impact that each student volunteer made led her to see that there is no issue that is bigger than another. This whole experience also showed her how God blesses everyone in different ways and that He will give strength to those who need it.

The stories behind each photograph were of people who struggled from depression, anger, suicide, sexual assault and loneliness. The hope was for everyone who walked through the gallery to find someone to whom they could relate to and see that they were not alone.

“The whole process was a God thing,” said Forney. Every detail from the music choice, to the subjects she photographed, and the people who approached her after everything was said and done was God-led.

The overwhelming support that Forney received got her excited to see just how this exhibit will impact the campus.

Sophomore Zach Morris, a participant in the gallery, said, “At first, I was a little hesitant to share my biggest issue because I was worried it would change the way people thought of me; but for the most part it felt good to be given the chance to share such a big piece of my life.”

“Hearing people’s real stories made me want to share my own story with others. It made me appreciate them and really want to foster better relationships with them,” Luke Dinger, junior who attended the gallery’s opening night.

The gallery will remain open to the public until tonight at 8 p.m. As you walk through the gallery, be open to acknowledging your own story and discover how your story matters too.