Pico Union Project is dedicated to the Jewish principle “Love your neighbor as yourself” to invigorate the community of Pico Union, Los Angeles, by bringing diverse cultures together. Accompagnateur Workshops afford members of distinct communities the opportunity to engage through the camera and conversation, empowering individuals, challenging misconceptions, and promoting connections.
“When I was homeless I ate out of trash cans. I looked like I was ninety years old. I didn't understand how I’d gotten into that world. I am now able to take pictures of me and still look like a woman.” —Lorraine, workshop participant
Colleen Dodson Baker, a student of Saskia's workshop with Pico Union Project in Los Angeles
The way Saskia merges the art of photography with the necessity of embracing others is seamless. By the end of the first session, she had developed a specific connection with each student, which grew deeper throughout the week, inspiring and motivating us all, individually and as a group.
The “With New Eyes” workshop was beautifully orchestrated. Each session built on the one before, with challenges and surprises along the way. It was a Master Class in staying focused, being present, trusting creativity, taking risks and loving one another.
I’m forever grateful that I was part of it and that my life has crossed paths with Saskia.
Rasheea Williams, a student of Saskia's workshop with Pico Union Project in Los Angeles
When we started this photography class, we did not know each other.
Over the four sessions, we learned what made each of us tick and formed some bonds.
By sharing our stories, we also learned that all of us, Jewish, Protestants, different racial and cultural backgrounds, have more in common than we may think.
We share the same concerns about our families and our places in the world. We have all suffered some traumas. The first step of opening up to strangers and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the most important.
Umar Hakim, a student of Saskia's workshop with Pico Union Project in Los Angeles
Saskia Keeley’s workshop caught me by surprise, this experience is definitely considered my life’s wrinkle in time. Through this program I met other amateur photographers with unique life stories, like mine, waiting to be digitally documented.
Saskia’s facilitative leadership created a safe space for us to become creative beings. She led us to discover what we may have previously taken for granted. We were empowered by a compassionate force for people, life’s moments and the Art of Photography.
Guided by a theme for protection it taught us how to recognise simple forms of protection - offered by protectors who surround us daily.
Maybe if life’s offenders were photographed before they transgress, they would see the wrong in their actions and begin to protect the same people they intended to hurt.
I left this experience with a keen sense on how to identify beauty hidden in everyday life. In order to embrace our assignment I ignored my own comfort and place myself in difficult positions, so I could safely capture moments worth protecting. In this manner, others can appreciate our visual perception, which to have vision, is a gift provided by The One Who Sees All.
Craig Taubman, Founder of the Pico Union Project
The idea was simple. Take Saskia’s photojournalist project which pairs Palestinian and Israeli women who use the lens of a camera to get to know each other and bring it to the 16 people from diverse cultures and faiths at the Pico Union Project.
Such is life. You plan. Hope for the best. Try to anticipate the unexpected, and every once in a while, you are given the most precious of gifts - surprise and wonder.
All of the planning and conversations could never have captured the essence of this truly wonderful artist, and the remarkable way she is able to bring out the humanity of others.
I could tell you what happened in more detail, but the more exciting truth is that I have no idea what she can do with your group – other than to bring out the best that all of us have to bring and give. The idea is simple. Partake of the gift, you will be rewarded many times over.