Since the advent of the World Wide Web in 1990, globalization has changed the way we think about cultural identity and representation -- or so many of us would like to think. Despite increased connectivity around the world and exposure to cultures on every continent, many lesser-developed countries still receive short shrift on the world stage. Last year, 22-year-old student O’Plerou Grebet noticed that the emojis on his Apple iPhone reflected a bent towards Western civilization, portraying few images he saw in his day-to-day life as a citizen of the Ivory Coast in Africa. Determined to provide his friends and family with emojis that represented their culture specifically, he honed his Photoshop skills by watching YouTube tutorials and set to work. He never expected his homemade emojis to take off the way they did. 

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Human beings are communal creatures. We crave to be understood and connected with others, to have the chance of sharing our story with someone who wants to listen. This can be a daunting task, however, and it is sometimes difficult to connect when words fail to express our voice. Art can exist as a mediator for our stories; it can be a conduit for showing instead of telling one's vulnerabilities and feelings. 

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If you want to understand American photographer Nan Goldin, you need to be comfortable with embracing both darkness and light. You have to be ready to descend into the underworld and to rise like a phoenix from ashes. There is the pain of abuse in her work, like her self-portrait titled: Nan one month after being battered,1984, which shows her bruised and battered aftermath of a toxic relationship. And there is also the carefree “let them eat cake” joy in her snapshot Picnic on the Esplanade, Boston, 1973.

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In the age of social media, everyone has the ability to create visual art if they have access to a smartphone. Apple Inc. has made the advancement of their camera technology the priority, attracting photographers and film directors to experiment with the iPhone camera’s capabilities instead of opting for the usual expensive DSLR equipment. In this vein, the iPhone camera breaks down the barrier of cost and access to materials for the process of creating high-quality visual art. As a mentor once told me, “It isn’t what you have; It’s how you use it.

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