|Photographer, Diana Barnett dances, laughs and plays with the children of(l-r) India, Brazil and Turkey.|
My name is Diana Barnett and I am a child of American parents who had lived and traveled all over Europe at the time I was born. The first fifteen years of my life were spent living in Italy, France and England. My birthplace is Florence, where my father, who worked for international companies, had been stationed. Living in Europe both in my childhood and part of my adolescence is a gift that I will cherish forever. With so many different cultures, colors, and tastes, Europe is the place where I believe I garnered my curiosity and compassion for people of the world.
Love for cultures and compassion for the common people have played a profound role in my career decisions. In my early twenties I was no longer living in Europe. Instead, I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana. One thing that captivated me the most in that city was going to restaurants and enjoying time with friends eating different ethnic foods. My passion for food was so strong that I decided to become a Chef.
Working for restaurants was professionally gratifying. As I became a well-recognized Chef I had great pleasure in preparing food for people and seeing in their faces the happiness that only a great meal can extract. The restaurant work was also instrumental in leading me towards another passion of my life. Through charity related events, I began to work with children-in-need in some kind of volunteer capacity. Parallel to this activity, I also started taking pictures of kids. Self-taught and an admirer of still photography, it meant a great deal to me registering the full expressions of love, laughter and life in children's faces.
In the fall of 1999, my life changed significantly as a result of an event that took place in Turkey--the earthquake in Northern Turkey that took the lives of more than 20,000 people. As I watched the devastating news about of the loss of life and people's hopes to find their loved ones, one thought kept on pounding in my head: I kept on thinking about the children. In my mind, I wondered if they were trapped under the debris and, if so, what were their thoughts, what were they doing, and how were their hearts. I was so affected with their pain and desperation that I would wake up in the middle of the night with vivid dreams. One of the recurring dreams, however, felt like a message of some sort. The message was: to take my camera and document the situation through the eyes of the children; to give a voice into the children's hearts; to make their voices heard. And with that voice help these children through fundraising efforts showing their photographs.
Being a person always willing to follow her heart first, I took the message very seriously. After researching travel arrangements and making some phone calls, I took a plane to Turkey within two weeks of that dream. The trip changed my life as it inspired me to work with children. It was the true manifestation of my now documentary project FACES OF TOMORROW. Upon returning to the United States I donated all my photos to various NGO's (non-government organizations) that were currently fundraising and working in Turkey to help the victims of the disaster. The photos were extremely helpful to the fundraising efforts. They gave intimate voices to the catastrophic scenes and stories of the children.
Through my project I became aware of the devastating situations children have to endure in their daily lives. However, there is something that really strikes me amongst all their suffering. I get stunned with the hope shown by the children. Yes, HOPE! It is as if they believe in hope more than the adults surrounding them. Hope is their strength. Thanks to the amazing dedicated work of NGO's and the astounding strength of children, I still feel hopeful for humankind. Children are one of my greatest sources of hope. Their hope serves as a daily lesson in my life's journey. I strongly believe that there is a more productive thread through the foundation of hope as opposed to pity. This is not in any way to lessen the suffering, which is still there, but it is a way to shine the spotlight in another direction.
I sincerely hope that FACES OF TOMORROW has created a vehicle for children to have "their voices" heard. In listening to their voices, we can learn about their strengths and be reminded about the importance of love in their lives. I believe love is their source of strength. Besides playing, eating and going to school, children need to feel loved everyday.