“what I thought I saw” brings diversity to print

On Jan. 12, Art Access Gallery hosted a book signing event with the authors and photographers of a new book, written by four women from the Salt Lake area.

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“what I thought I saw: a book that challenges the way you look at things because maybe you just don’t know…” is a collection of stories and photography that is a visual essay on modern stereotypes and diversity.

The four local authors are Zoe Rodriguez, Peta Owen-Liston, Amy Albo and Sasha Polek.

A former photography instructor at Salt Lake Community College, Polek photographed many of the people profiled in the book.

Rodriguez came up with the initial idea for the book when she was taking a class called “The Artist’s Way” from SLCC professor Rick Graham. Rodriguez said there were many “broken artists” taking the class who all began sharing their life stories with each other.

“We were all trying to find our creativity again and we walked in scared, sad and totally shut down,” Rodriguez said. “We told each other our stories, hiding behind our accomplishments of years ago, our lies and all of us worried that if we told each other the truth about our fears and worries we wouldn’t be accepted or even liked. But by three months later we all knew one another well. We all knew our secrets, our failures, our pain and we all liked each other. In fact we loved each other. We left being the best of friends and our confidence changed.”

“At first I wanted to do a book about fear, about how people are so afraid to show who they truly are and so often hide behind masks of convention,” wrote Rodriguez about the book. “So now it has evolved into a book about judgments, because I think that’s what people really fear. I love the idea of having people see a snapshot of their own judgments or unconscious thoughts.”

The book contains a variety of stories and pictures of people from all walks of life with vastly different experiences and exteriors.

The image on the cover is that of the transformation of a transgendered individual from being Derrick to becoming Jessica.

The stories within the book contain experiences of people from a Playboy Bunny-turned-humanitarian to a full bodied tattooed businessman.

‘a different take on stereotypes’

“It’s about non-traditional stereotypes,” said Lynn Kilpatrick, a SLCC professor who attended the book signing. “Stereotyping is not just about racism but how we are all biased in some way to those who are old, obese or disabled. This book offers a different take on stereotypes and diversity.”

Kilpatrick talked about how this book could be used as a teaching tool in diversity classes such as Diverse US Women Writers, as it is a collaboration about diversity by four Utah women writers.

The books were sold out during the book signing but more will be available in the future at The King’s English Bookshop.

There is an exhibit of some of the pictures and stories displayed at Art Access Gallery downtown and selections are available to view at http://www.thewhatithoughtisawbook.com/

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