What people say about Saskia

Shuli, a student of Saskia's workshop with Roots in the West Bank

Dear Saskia,

I wanted to share with you a meaningful moment I experienced last week, I hope I can express it in English.

We were driving around Tekoa and were stuck behind a slow truck. A Palestinian truck that had a print of a bride: A Palestinian young woman with a big head scarf, of the same sort our friends in the workshop were wearing.  I found myself staring at it (while diving slowly...) with a warm heart and a sense of intimacy.

In that moment I realized how deep and basic it is what you gave us in your workshop: intimacy.
We didn't talk about deep or highly important subjects, but we looked closely at each other's faces, clothes, and bodies, we became aware of details. This is something I never had the chance to do, nor ever had a thought of the importance of doing it.

Palestinian people are strangers, distant, unfamiliar to me. Even if I don't regard them as enemies anymore, they are still very far. Now I looked at this foreign woman on the picture and felt physically and emotionally close to her because of her big scarf and strong makeup. I subconsciously recognized these as familiar to me. It made me happy and raised my belief that step by step change can happen.

Thank you!

Sarah Mandel, a student of Saskia's workshop with Roots in the West Bank

Saskia’s natural warmth and charm made everyone feel comfortable. She brought the group together, taught us how to use the cameras and then encouraged everyone to experiment and explore at their own pace. The sessions were a fantastic opportunity to learn more about photography and to get to know the other women.

Saskia’s flexibility and enthusiasm kept us all involved, even in the face of some logistical challenges. In a calm, nurturing and safe environment the photography was a basis for an encounter with the Other in the conflict, who we would never otherwise be able to meet. I found it particularly powerful to take photos of the other women, as when you set up a photograph in your camera lens, you examine and consider the subject in a totally different way than when you are just looking at them.

I would highly recommend Saskia’s workshop to anyone and look forward to her return so that more women can benefit from them.

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.

Uwimana Aisha Radellant, a student of Saskia's workshop with Women's Prison Association

We live in a complex world, filled with an abundance of beauty. I was blessed to capture some of its awesome magnificence when given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with an amazing photographer and equally amazing person by the name of Saskia Keeley.

Saskia shared her expertise, professional equipment, assistant, and more importantly her heart with complete strangers. Saskia gave us the opportunity to tell our story, through the lens of the cameras she entrusted to us. In doing so she gave us the chance to explore and capture our world through the medium of photography.

Saskia’s photography workshop has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. If fortune smiles on you and you are given the chance to work with Saskia, don’t think twice, just do it! It’s an experience you will treasure for life.

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.

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.

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Roots Co-Founder & Director of International Relations

The first set of photo workshops took place during the summer of 2016 and since then Saskia has returned to Roots every single summer.

It would be an understatement to say that we are thrilled with Saskia. She's created a whole new methodology of bringing people - enemies - together by looking at each other through the lens of the camera. The micro-transformations that many of the women undergo, in which the hard outer shell of exclusivist identity begins to crack, are breathtaking. The women begin to open up to each other and to imagine what it is like to live the other's life. Empathy begins to appear on the horizon.

The power of the camera is even greater than I'd thought. Saskia's methodology combines group dynamics with storytelling, and a certain type of interpersonal therapy. Every year she comes back with the same integrity, focus and dedication, but also with new insights and techniques. More and more women join and are affected, and the influence of the workshops spreads.

I cannot wait to see what the future holds, as Saskia's camera and her facilitation reach more and more people. An investment in Saskia's work is an investment in a more humane, a more empathic and a more caring society.

Diana McHugh, Director of Communications for the Women's Prison Association

Saskia’s workshop was the perfect addition to WPA’s Women’s Leadership & Media Project. Saskia was a thoughtful planner who kept things simple for us while also honoring our adherence to trauma-informed and gender-responsive practices. She incorporated these practices into her workshop which felt tailored to our group at every step.

She was trustworthy, flexible, and available to both our staff and clients throughout the entire process. The women in the class were drawn to her sincerity and I to her professionalism.

The workshop was a beautiful dive into storytelling via photography. Saskia’s careful and patient instruction made it easy for the women to learn the cameras, engage in storytelling, and trust themselves to capture their stories through a new and creative medium.

Though our class didn’t require internal conflict resolution, the women still stretched, grew, and bonded as a group, which was, perhaps, the most meaningful outcome of the workshop – even more so than the incredible photographs the women produced!

Ellen Agler, CEO of The END Fund

Saskia integrates and connects well with the local community, and her photos are stunningly beautiful.

She was able to garner the trust and confidence needed to take the very intimate photos of people suffering from stigmatizing and disabling diseases, while also managing high-level relationships with Ministry of Health staff and village leaders to ensure that everyone understands her role and goals.  

The END Fund has used Saskia’s photos to help raise awareness not only about our work in the DRC, but in our annual report, website and other reports to highlight partners and progress toward controlling and eliminating the five most prevalent NTDs that affect over 1.5 billion people globally. Saskia has been a wonderful partner for the END Fund, and I would highly recommend her as a partner for any high-impact, social change organization.

Olivia Ildefonso, Board Member for S.T.R.O.N.G Youth

We have tried many strategies to empower our kids and give them the tools to realize that even though they were dealt a difficult hand of cards, they can persevere and make positive changes in their lives and their communities. Out of all the workshops that I’ve been involved with to date, I can honestly say that none have been as effective as the workshop that Saskia led with our kids.
While these teenagers have seemingly come from entirely different worlds - some have fled poverty and violence in their home countries, while other have grown up in the most affluent zip codes in the U.S. - the cameras gave them a way to be seen by each other and develop common understandings.

Saskia skillfully created a safe and welcoming environment that allowed the youth to be vulnerable with one another. During the first day, no one wanted to talk at all, but once they were given the cameras and were told to take each other’s portraits the tension quickly started to dissipate. And the portraits that they produced were stunning!

More importantly, throughout the workshops, they also reflected on the aspects of themselves that the photos were able to capture and the sides of themselves that remained hidden from view.

We were often brought to tears by their reflections and their deep sense of self. To say that these workshops were powerful, would be an understatement. We look forward to working with Saskia more in the future!

Alison Davis Curry

I was present for the workshops, supporting Saskia in her work and documenting the workshops. I watched the kids as they entered, fearful, self-contained and distracted. They used their cell phones as shields from the group. Many spoke only Spanish and through translators. The kids subdivided in groups, not into two groups from different communities, but into sub-groups within those communities, in pairs, and in isolation.

During our collaborative sessions, working with their partners and the camera, the kids came to see their own fears and facades, and to recognize their mutual similarities. Simples acts engaged the children: looking through the camera, posing for the camera, selecting and sharing photographs with the group. Challenging tasks: creating a narrative around the photographs, and consideration for the “masks” they wear to project the face they want the world to see, and the “selves” they hide behind that mask.

An introspective act to create, an extrospective act to share, these exercises broke stereotypes the children identified as creating their personas in the world, vs the inner-selves they hide beneath their masks.

The fourth session, when the work was shared, was joyous and harmonious. A hugely different mood from the one we walked into just a month before. A recurring motif of concern from the children was the negative images of Brentwood, and the way they are stereotyped based on where they live and what they look like.