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When Less Is More

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

When you look at your social media feed, what do you see? What do you hear?

Do you see your selfies looking back at you?

Do you hear your own words talking about you? Your title? Your job? Your accomplishments? Your latest award?

IF we only focus on talking about me, myself, and I, then, naturally that is what will echo back at us; a hall of mirrors full of selfies and fake smiles, filters, and a curated reality that conveniently hides the complexity of being a real, raw, multifaceted human being.

What really matters in your life? Do you ever talk about that without putting yourself first? Do you point the camera away from you and towards that which really matters?

We devote so much time and effort to talking exclusively about ourselves that we rarely allocate any space or time for the things that matter.

This constant focus on me, me, me, creates a vacuum of isolation where the only voice we hear is ours. Have you noticed? Pay attention ... you are doing it. Everyone is doing it. We live in a world where we don't know how to share the spotlight or focus on nothing much beyond ourselves.

What matters in your life? Have you ever asked yourself this question?

What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What problem do you want to solve? What is important in your life other than your selfie, photos about your food or fast fashion, or places you've been, or influential people you are connected to?

I SEE WHAT I AM is an invitation to own what you publish on social media feeds as a reflection of what matters in your life.

I AM WHAT I SEE is an invitation to take a moment and reflect on the stories we create on a daily basis and own them, celebrate them, to see in them who we are.

I SEE WHAT I AM / I AM WHAT I SEE is an invitation to take inventory of your actions and social media habits and how they are a reflection of who you are .... and if you don't like what you see, this is an invitation to change and create your story with intention and purpose.

Less of you.

More of what matters.

Visual Storytelling Mentorship Program

In this day and age, we have all become expert photographers, especially our youth. Taking a photography class seems rather obsolete and redundant. Most newer mobile phones take better photographs than a professional DSLR camera. So, what then, were the youth selected to participate in the Visual Storytelling Mentorship Program signed up to learn? To see and write with purpose.

Visual storytelling as I define it is: purpose-driven narrative and intentional photography.

King County Metro bus showcasing TEDxYouth@Seattle team photo. Mary Sciscente and Banna Kanuten hugging themselves to celebrate the end of the 8 week mentorship program.

The Journey of Creating a Moving Exhibit

In addition to a purpose-driven narrative and the ability to focus on intentional photography, there is also the element of understanding the audience we were communicating with. In this case, our focus was a typical King County Metro bus rider.

When we began to plan the themes for our exhibits, we began to focus on who rode the bus. What do they experience on a typical journey inside the bus? What could we possibly say to convey who we were and what visuals we wanted to share with our photo stories. We began by asking, "who rides the bus?"

TEDx team riding the bus while filming the "It's Time" promotional video. Photo by: Mary Siscente Bonilla

We all rode the bus. We were all a sample of a typical bus riding audience. We all wanted to connect with the strangers riding the bus. We all wished people smiled more. We all welcomed opportunities to exchange ideas, smiles, or just chat. We all felt our stories mattered and in validating our stories, we focused on creating 3 exhibits that invite the rider to focus on what mattered to them as well.

Banna Kanuten | The Moment of Happiness

Itzel Luccas | Turn The Music Up

Mary Siscente Bonilla | Tears Don't Have To Be Blue

In the course of our 8-week program, Banna, Itzel, and Mary focused on learning to practice intentional photography through a process of having a clear and purpose driven directive to capture, in photographs, a certain assignment or skill needed to produce an image that conveyed a story.

Specifically, our mentorship program focused on;

  • Seeing with purpose. "What is the purpose of this image? Who will see it? Why am I producing it?"

  • Giving and receiving direction when in front of the camera.

  • Working with subjects, partners, potential employers, colleagues.

  • Purpose driven narrative. Reflection, ownership, communicating through writing.

  • Showing Up

  • Post Production

Interactive Exhibit

The final outcome of our program was displayed inside a King County Metro bus with several interactive activities designed in partnership with Interplay Experience Design. The Experience provoked a sense of empathy and connection with not only the visual storyteller but also with fellow riders.

Everyone who rides the bus is human, wants to be happy, and has the right to take up space and be unequivocally themselves. Won't you agree?

When was the last time you were truly happy or cried your heart out? When was the last time you danced to your internal music? When was the last time a stranger became a friend?

While riding the bus, we are presented with infinite opportunities to create, reflect, and connect with what matters to us and to a fellow bus rider. The goal of our exhibit was to showcase our humanity, our vulnerabilities, and our right to exist and dance to our own music.

Interactive experience designed by: Interplay Experience Design

Interactive experience designed by: Interplay Experience Design

Interactive experience designed by: Interplay Experience Design

Interactive experience designed by: Interplay Experience Design

Ideas Worth Sharing

The final assignment of our mentorship program was capturing the TEDxYouth@Seattle Event as official photographers.

Banna Kanuten and Mary Siscente Bonilla explaining the purpose of visual storytelling.

In the spirit of Ideas Worth Sharing, I once had this crazy idea that I could create a mentorship program where youth could learn to capture/photograph a TEDx Youth event in the same manner I was once mentored by fellow TEDxers; with PURPOSE and INTENTION.

Thank you, Vivian Lim and Divya Parmar of TEDxSingapore and TEDxNTU. My dots connect back to you. This program started during our first exhibition at Women In Asia.

Thank you, Dave Lim for creating, guiding, and mentoring the TEDx communities in Singapore and SE Asia. Your influence and outreach is now looking back at you through this program.

Thank you, Renee and Saskia, and entire TEDxYouth@Seattle team for your support, mentorship, and for truly exemplifying a co-creation spirit throughout the year-long-process of organizing this event, and for allowing me the space to pass on the mic to the future generation of visual storytellers.

Thank you, Banna, Itzel, and Mary for your dedication and commitment. Your work is truly inspiring.

LESS of you. MORE of what matters.


Mary Gomez Camba

Founder, The Think Visual Project

TEDx Speaker

TEDx Youth Mentor


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