by Colton Campbell

When Nancy Richards Farese was a young girl, riding in the backseat of her mother's car during seemingly endless carpool rides, she'd read Nancy Drew books.

Nancy Richards Farese
Nancy Richards Farese

Now, Farese considers herself a modern-day Nancy Drew who shares more with the classic character than the same first name.

"Nancy was a woman who worked tirelessly to solve the problems around her, and in the end of every story, she'd realize the solutions to life's problems lie within you," Farese said, speaking as part of her executive-in-residence tenure in the Richards College of Business at the University of West Georgia. "That was the genesis of my love for storytelling."

Farese – a social documentary photographer and founder of CatchLight, a philanthropic organization that strives to create a worldwide network of visual storytellers worldwide – found that her preferred method of storytelling came through the lens of a camera.

The Carrollton native and California transplant spoke during a showcase of her photography hosted by the Richards College of Business. Michelle Nunn – president and CEO of CARE USA, a humanitarian aid organization for which Farese serves as a photo ambassador – also spoke during the showcase.

"Nancy has such a gift of showing the lives of people who live such incredibly different lives from us and showing what connects us," Nunn said. "When we have more refugees in our world than we’ve had since World War II, and we're faced with the question of whether the United States will continue to hold the mantle of humanitarian leadership, this in an incredibly important time for telling the story of human solidarity."

Farese agreed, saying that visual storytelling is "crucial now more than ever."

"Photography connects us both intellectually and emotionally," said Farese, who has visited countries like Bangladesh, Haiti and Jordan as an ambassador for CARE. "The world is very complex. Storytelling is one way to help people heal and lift them up. I'm very privileged to be able to look through my viewfinder and see how photography is a good lens for social change."

Nunn asked attendees to share their gifts – like Farese does – to shed light on issues around the world and bring change.

Michelle Nunn
Michelle Nunn

"A challenge for us at CARE is to show the hope, dignity and humanity of people we're connected with around the world, but also the truth of their suffering, without making them look like helpless victims," Nunn said. "One of the ways to do that is to show the triumph of the human spirit, like Nancy helps us do. You all know your gifts, and you can help us tell those stories of extraordinary strength and resilience."

The "Art as Activism: A Showcase" event was hosted as part of Farese's engagement as an executive-in-residence in the Richards College of Business. Farese spent two days at UWG, speaking to students in management and photography classes and enjoying a campus tour with UWG officials.

UWG President Kyle Marrero spoke during the showcase, saying Farese's experience and dialogue with students help fulfill UWG’s goal of preparing students to be "global citizens.”

"This event is a perfect example of our culture here at UWG and what we stand for – educational opportunity and our commitment to community," Marrero said. "Nancy taking the time to talk with our students and share her passion and life’s work has made a powerful impression. We deeply appreciate the gift of her time, expertise and engagement with us."

Farese ended her presentation by sharing a directive her parents gave her frequently when she was younger.

"Make yourself useful," she said. "They were usually telling me to do some household chore, but it's stayed with me over all these years, telling me to work hard and stay tuned in to what others need to make the world just a little bit better. I'm so delighted to join everyone who's here to make themselves useful and make Carrollton and the West Georgia community – and the world – just a little bit better."

Posted on May 9, 2018