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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Ian Carsia at 1:51PM   |  Add a comment
Devan Johnson and the IC Breakers performing at the "Free the Slaves" fundraiser in February

Blog posting written by Ian Carsia, Cinema & Photography '14, FLEFF Intern, Hamilton, NJ

Devan Johnson is a member of the Ithaca class of 2012 and a returning Intern for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

This year, she's assuming the added responsibility of 'team leader' for the newest crop of Interns. When asked about her reasons for returning and accepting this additional responsibility:

"Patty. I do everything she tells me to do. She said, "Apply to be a team leader!" and I said, "Okay, Patty!" And I applied to be a team leader."

Devan has an academic resume and extracurricular workload that already rivals the vast majority of her peers.

She's been an RA at Ithaca college for the past two years, once in West Towers and once in the Garden Apartments where she currently resides.

She is majoring in Documentary Studies with a double-minor in Environmental Studies and Writing.

In the past, she has taken on humanitarian work in Nicaragua and an internship in Costa Rica.

She dances and choreographs with the hip-hop dance troupe Pulse.

This February, she also performed with another group, IC Breakers, as part of a "Free the Slaves" fundraiser to raise awareness of human trafficking within the United States.

Most prominently, Devan is extremely passionate about her photography. By her own admission, the two biggest things in her life are God and photography:

"For me, it's a deeply religious experience. Because photography is kind of my way of taking how I see the world and the things that God created and catching them and being able to show them to other people."

Entering Devan's spacious apartment, one of the first things I noticed was a Transformers bedspread.

I learned that it was actually hand-made by Devan's mother.

This has been a consistent influence on Devan's outlook and attitude. As a child, her mother was always working on crafts projects for her children.

"She's a really, really creative and artistic lady. And I think that's really where I get my creative and artistic mindset from."

Her mutually positive relationship with her mother has also had the consequence of sparking her passion with photography as both art and spirituality.

Devan received her first Canon "point-and-shoot" camera for Christmas when she was 16. This was the same year that Devan went with her mother on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua.

Around the same time, Devan was experiencing what could be called, for lack of a better and less cliche term, a crisis of faith.

Devan stopped going to church when she was 15, and ultimately decided to not receive confirmation out of a sense that to do so would be hypocritical.

"I think the only two things [my mother and I] fought about were that and braces."

Her mother signed herself and her daughter up for the trip to Nicaragua. It would prove to be one of the most significant ventures of Devan's life.

As the youngest member of her group, it was also discovered that Devan knew the most Spanish. She became the de facto translator for the majority of the trip.

Far from a burden to shoulder, these sorts of anecdotes are consistent with a spirit of optimism Devan has cultivated throughout her life and continues to express. The trip to Nicaragua, IC Breakers, and her internship with FLEFF are all examples of her willingness to throw herself into new experiences regardless of her trepidations about them.

In Nicaragua, this meant the discovery of not only photography but of the divine.

"I just totally fell in love with photographing people from different cultures and a different ways of life."

"To me, when I see God's hand on Earth, it's in these little moments where the light is hitting something just right or when there's something just amazingly beautiful that if you stop to think about it for a second you're like, "Wow, that's...that's awesome." And the thing is that people don't stop and think about it for a second."

Devan has several tattoos that are weighted with personal and spiritual significance.

One is the Hebrew word avodah, which she learned meant both work and worship.

"I want to live my life in a way that brings God glory, not by following rules, but by showing people why he's so amazing. To me worship isn't going to church and doing sit-stand-kneel, sit-stand-kneel. Worship is going out into the world and just standing in awe of a sunset on a mountain and knowing that God made it."


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