Tico Times photography intern Tammy Zibners’ spirits were crushed when she received an e-mail from the Fulbright Scholar Program in February, informing her that her project had been rejected for a fellowship.
That’s why she said she could hardly believe the news she recently received that her project had been accepted by the prestigious program of the United States Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs; the original e-mail had been a mistake.
Zibners, 23, a fine arts graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, will depart to Latvia, a member of the former Soviet Union, next September, to spend nine months working on an elaborate photography project she expects to culminate with a photo exhibit and the publication of a book.
Her project, entitled “Returning to Latvia through Eyes of Expatriates,” will tie her Latvian background to her own perception of the country as a U.S. citizen.
Zibners will use her Latvian grandparents’ writings about the Latvian revolution of 1921 – a diary kept by her grandmother and a novel written by her grandfather– and pair them with photos of Latvia today, she explained.
“I will look at the contrast between their perception (as immigrants in the United States) of Latvia as a promised land and what I find,” she said, adding that her photos will examine time, change, the effects of communism and post-communism.
Zibners, who joined The Tico Times in March, was one of four candidates selected for the Latvia fellowship out of seven applicants.
The Fulbright program will provide her with transportation to and from Latvia, food, accommodation and a moderate stipend for supplies.
“I feel really excited, being an artist, that somebody respects that desire, and that I’ve gotten recognition for doing something that’s really important but a lot of people don’t care about because they think it’s impractical,” she said.
“Also, getting (the Fulbright) has made me realize how lucky I am that I’ve got so much support from professors, family and friends,” she added.