Natasha Franks discusses the Inside Out Project, a worldwide photography exhibition that St Andrews has recently joined. 


At the DONT WALK Charity Fashion Show last weekend, the eyes of many guests were drawn towards a display just to the right of the main entrance. Consisting of approximately fifteen oversized posters, the mysterious black and white exhibition depicted an array of students, each with a single word emblazoned across their chests. A small glimpse of a much larger entity, these posters were a small scale snapshot for the role that St Andrews has been given in a worldwide project: Inside Out.

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Inside Out spawned in 2011 from a TED Talk given by the elusive street artist JR. Renown for his massive portraits and award-winning films, JR described his goal to turn the world “inside out,” two words that precipitated a global movement of over 1200 groups, 127 countries, and 250,000 posters. Portraits can be found in Malawi, in Jordan, in Tunisia, and now in St Andrews, Scotland.

The St Andrews branch of the Inside Out Project has been a massive undertaking spearheaded by Project Leaders Jason Meng and Maya Asha McDonald, alongside photographer and Creative Director Tatiana Krotovskaya. Acting as facilitators between Inside Out and DONT WALK, all three worked with DONT WALK committee members Gabriela Flax, Paula Murmann, and Leigh Offman to select from our student body a diverse set of students who they felt best represented the innovative scope of the project. After interviewing several hundred candidates and photographing nearly one hundred of them, the final result was seventy-one portraits that have just been released on the Inside Out website as an official part of the project.

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The concept of the photos was simple: Participants were instructed to select a word that they felt best represented them or that they held a particular fascination with. “Words” ranged from years to coordinates to symbols, adjectives in a variety of languages, simple descriptors that contained endless meanings to their participant. Tatiana, known for her work with Concrete Catwalk and Students Off Duty, photographed each participant and, together with Jason and Maya, spent countless hours preparing the photos for the Inside Out team. Capturing just a single moment, each photo epitomises the subject’s chosen word, freezing them in the precise instant that best symbolises how they chose to represent themselves.

Although intended for public display, the photos are simultaneously very personal entities. Maya explains that although “these portraits were designed to appear light-hearted, they carry a silent, more serious message.” With little more than a word, Jason believes, people will be prompted to “[think] about their character at a deeper level.” True to the title of the project, the portraits have taken private facets of their subjects and brought them to light.

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The goal of Inside Out St Andrews encompasses not only this sense of honesty, but also a sense of pride in our generation. In 2013, Time Magazine published an article entitled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” Backed by facts and statistics, the author decried millennials as entitled, emotionally stunted narcissists, writing off today’s young adults as failures from the moment of their birth. The University of St Andrews itself has fallen victim to many similar admonishments, with accusations of grandeur and elitism frequent amongst both local and national critics. By partnering with such a massive student endeavour and by representing our student body as more than just a shallow pond of out-of-touch miscreants, Inside Out seeks to step outside the stereotype of “entitled Millennial.”

The theme is Glorious Survival. It aims to transcend boundaries and prove to the world that a society helmed by our generation has the potential to be bright. We are each driven by more than our favourite Tweet or how many likes our latest Instagram has gotten, and our photos exemplify the depth that every Millennial possesses.

Jason and Maya send their sincere thanks to all the participants, Tatiana, Inside Out, and DONT WALK for making this project possible. Participants who wish to claim their poster may send a request to jm316@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Natasha Franks