If you go
What: "Life at the Tasaru Rescue Centre," photographs by Mary Walker
When: Opening reception 5 to 7 p.m. Friday; exhibit opens for viewing Tuesday
Where: Emerging Artists Gallery at the Depot Art Center; the gallery's November show also features work by photographers Michael Gilbert, Henry Laughlin and Gloria Pereyra
Steamboat Springs The girls at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya, don't understand why volunteer rescue center worker and Clark resident Mary Walker would want to take pictures of them cooking.
"That anybody would be at all interested and not know how to do that, it kind of tickles them," said Walker, who returned from working at the center in late September and will go back for the holiday season.
In a collection of photography opening Tuesday at the Depot Art Center, Walker hopes her work sits somewhere between staged shots of girls smiling with their friends and the kinds of photos she said often appear of girls like the ones at Tasaru. The Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre provides a safe house for Maasai girls who have run away from their families to escape, or been rescued from, female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage.
"I hope to show in my photography that these are just girls," Walker said. "They've had a lot of trauma and a lot of hardship, but I hope that most of the things people see in these photos is that they are just teenage girls."
By showing the girls in carefree moments - reading, cooking, playing, smiling - Walker hopes to provide images outside of the iconic suffering she said she sees too often in Western magazines and newspapers.
"I think it's really easy in our culture to identify these girls as being victims of a cultural practice. And they are. But that's not the only thing they are," Walker said. "That's not who they are."
Linda Laughlin, director of visual arts for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, said she started working with Walker on the exhibit about a year ago, when Walker showed her some snapshots of life in Narok.
"She really wasn't sure that her photographs were gallery-worthy," Laughlin said, taking a break from hanging the show on Sunday afternoon at the Depot. "But I saw a lot in her photographs and encouraged her to have an exhibit."
Laughlin said she appreciates the photos for documenting the girls of Tasaru as girls, outside of trauma or hardship.
"I just think that her photographs really capture the person behind the face," Laughlin said. The girls "are all smiling here, for the most part, and they just all look like young women whose future is bright. : I think the photographs are universal in what they're communicating."
As all the work in the Depot's Emerging Artists Gallery is for sale, Walker plans to donate proceeds from any photographs sold to the Tasaru Scholarship Fund. The fund helps pay college fees for girls who have completed secondary school and have left the Tasaru center.