For many years, Catherine Oshanek might have felt all alone, badgered by bullies.
But her campaign profiling others enduring similar experiences is resonating with thousands, many among them eager to share their own stories.
In the first four weeks, the Calgary photographer’s online ‘I’ve Been Bullied,’ project attracted more than 1,500 followers, intrigued by its simple yet powerful message.
Within the first day, someone who bullied Oshanek for years made contact — to offer an apology.
“I never expected anything, but I am very happy with the response,” the 29-year-old owner of White Cedar Photography said.
“I’ve heard from people in Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia and India … I’m getting so many stories.”
It began with her own.
Failing Grade 1 due to a learning disability, she was mocked by bullies who also zeroed in on her weight.
“I was called stupid and fat and beluga whale my entire life,” she said.
“Even with my best friends, I allowed them to pick on me because I just wanted to have friends.”
When the former Calgary Sun staffer branched out on what proved to be a vibrant solo career as a photographer, it gave her ample time for reflection and she began to heal from years of constant taunting from peers, family and adults who should have known better.
Though she harbours no resentment for her tormentors, she now refuses to let their name-calling define her, instead embracing how it made her a better person.
“It’s not an anti-bullying campaign,” she clarifies.
“I don’t think you will ever get rid of bullying, it’s part of human nature.”
“There is always two sides to the story, typically they have their own inner turmoil, their own problems.”
Instead, she hopes the profiles showcase inspiring successes which contradict assessments and judgments made by bullies.
Told with simple photographs of people with a black eye, holding a white sheet of paper with a single handwritten word encapsulating insults and accusations the profiles include everything from “loser,’ to ‘fag,’ ‘fat,’ ‘unwanted,’ and ‘dirty squaw’ — men and women from varied walks of life all sharing success stories despite the bullies who tried to define them as something else.
“They are teachers, mothers, actors, singers, humanitarians and models,” Oshanek said.
“I hope to show strong successful people who have been able to use the negativity from being bullied and create a positive.”
Since launching the campaign — after fruitless and frustrating efforts to work with existing ones with the feds and local school boards — Oshanek has been asked to speak at schools.
Focusing on fashion shoots in Canada and New York — photographing models, celebrities and everyday people to pay the bills — she said ‘I’ve Been Bullied,’ is a return to what lured her to journalism many years ago.
“I went into journalism and photojournalism to tell stories,” she said.
“The campaign is a return to tell stories, to spread a message.”
Anyone wanting to submit stories, attend an open house to be photographed and profiled can e-mail [email protected]
or visit www.facebook.com/beenbullied
On Twitter: @sunnadiamoharib
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Posted By: TypeABC |
5/13/13 10:39 AM
I hope we get rid of bullying and not accept that it is just human nature
Posted By: Rainbows303 |
5/14/13 1:06 PM
We could eliminate the problem if we put more significance on the problems surrounding bullying like home life and mental illness.