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Lycoming College communications professor Leah Bedrosian Peterson’s project Erasure was published in the spring 2013 edition of the German magazine Heritage of Our World, which is distributed with National Geographic in Germany to more than 100,000 subscribers.
Peterson, assistant professor of digital media, was invited to give classes to Westerners visiting the remote mountain regions of Southeast Asia through a photojournalist friend in the summer of 2010. She spent two months traveling through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which resulted in Erasure, a portfolio of photographs, drawings and videos documenting the culture and heritage of the villages and cities of the region. The title, Erasure, references the changes in the local traditional culture and the changes to the landscape as these third-world nations are being influenced by Western culture.
A drawing of one of her photographs was awarded the first place, best in show honor at the Park Art Fair International 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. There also are plans for Erasure to be exhibited and screened in France later this year.
“While doing service work in an orphanage in Cambodia and teaching English and art to the children, one young girl saw that I did not have a treat so she offered to give me hers – this was significant because she barely had any food to eat that day,” Peterson said. “Consideration of others and sharing seems to be an inherent part of the culture. I try to remind myself of those experiences so that I can be a more compassionate person.”
Some of Peterson’s most profound experiences took place in the mountains of Laos, in sparsely populated regions where small children run around naked and girls as young as 5 or 6 carry their baby brothers or sisters around in slings.
“The hill tribe people of Laos are thought of as the lowest class in the country and don’t receive governmental support, making their region significantly underdeveloped,” Peterson said. “I was struck by the fact that the entire village, the mud, the earth, the houses, the clothing, was overwhelmingly one color – brown. This single palette seemed to signify the simplicity of their lives.”
Peterson said she is excited that her work will get distributed to a larger audience via National Geographic. She continues to show Erasure in various stages, including recent installations in Chicago and New Jersey.
Her ultimate goal would be to take a group of Lycoming students on a trip to Southeast Asia. “It would be a great opportunity for the students,” she said. “It is an experience; it’s not like going on vacation. Your comfort level is challenged.”
Although the magazine will be distributed in Germany, Peterson has requested several copies and will have one available on reserve at the Snowden Library on campus.
Peterson teaches video and theory classes at Lycoming. She studied photography at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, N.Y., where she earned a BFA. She earned an MFA from Tufts University/The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass. Her work deals with issues of cultural identity and questions the role of fantasy in our daily lives. Peterson exhibits her work both nationally and internationally.
Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit www.lycoming.edu.