Interview with Ruth Eichhorn, former Editor at Large at GEO Magazines and The Other Hundred Project Jury Member


March 1, 2016


What is an educator to you?

Ruth: Perhaps one could say that life itself is the best educator. But on the other hand we do not want education to run wild by just getting us into situations that happen to teach us something, whether good or bad. We want some kind of control over the next generation’s education. We all know that education should mean knowledge, enlightenment, and reasoning power, but we also know that it can mean indoctrination and brainwashing.

For me a good educator is someone who stimulates critical thinking, who encourages people to look at life from different perspectives and who encourages them to be individuals andlive their lives on their own terms.

Having worked with The Other Hundred for the past two installments, we were fortunate to have you back for the third round. Why have you chosen to return?

Ruth: I liked the idea of the project from the beginning. A lot of brave and upright people get no attention, while some of the rich and beautiful get coverage with no particular achievements required. Not everyone is gifted with talent and willpower to make it to the top, but still may have a wonderful life. That basically was the idea of the first book, and it was a success. It was a confirmation for everyone involved -particularly for Chandran Nair who came up with the idea, for the organizers, and also for the jury -that this idea was well-received by a broad audience. I think that the next theme that followed, “The Other Hundred Entrepreneurs”, was a good idea as well. Working on that project was an incredible experience for the jury, as we were able to look into unknown corners of the world, into small but sometimes totally ingenious ideas and business plans of inventive people to solve local problems and being able make a living from it.
So I’m very happy that you asked me to come in for the next round. I think the subject of “The Other Hundred Educators” is broader than it looks at first glance. Education is basically everywhere and not limited to the formal education administered by the teacher standing in front of a classroom.

What kind of photographer should be part of this?

Ruth: Basically any photographer who is a journalistic or documentary photographer can participate. All photographers who want to tell stories should be involved. I think this third edition dealing with education is particularly tough and wider in scope than the former, as the idea is about “The Other…” - which implies that we are not referring toHarvard or Yale. But then – in my opinion – it might also be at Harvard or Yale, so long as it has a unique focus. The other side of this project should also involve the rural basic school in Nepal, but only if something extraordinary is going on in that school. ”The Other Hundred Educators” can also be about experimental projects, such as street projects. For example: a retired British linguist going to the Amazon to teach a forgotten language to a tribe that lost touch with its past, or an unusual story like that of Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport who defended her doctoral thesis at the age of 102 in Germany this year, since in 1938 the Nazis had banned her from earning a doctorate because her mother was Jewish. Formal/informal education is a vast and interesting field, as learning continues throughout life.

Has there been a recent story/photo essay that caught your attention that could be relevant to this year’s theme of educators?

Ruth: Yes, I can think of two very different stories that fit this year’s theme. One is a story by Gail Albert Halaban photographed for GEO on schools in Holland and Germany that introduced intensive computer-iPad-online education into their teaching agenda. The idea behind this concept: children growing up in the information age need to be proficient in the use of digital technology as a tool for knowledge, research, and communication for future competitiveness in the job market. Gail photographed this preparation for us from her kitchen table in New York. She had assistants on location who set up cameras and screens, and Gail talked to the children on Skype, explaining what she wanted to do and set up the image. She pushed the button from New York. I think that was an appropriate form to show what technology can do today.

Here is a video of how we did it.

Another story consists of the heartbreaking images of Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman who photographed children along their way on the unprecedented refugee trail from Syria to Europe. His images instantly touch the heart because these children are forced to sleep in the weirdest and saddest places and situations. They have the cruelest education of the worst side of life. In addition to the trauma of their journey, they carry with them the harrowing memories of years spent in their country amidst violence and destruction and without schooling. If not taken care of, they will be a lost generation, at least most of them.

There are lots of stories about this topic to be told, and I’m sure this third round will be extremely interesting and surprising.