In September 2022, American photographer Alexandra Buxbaum traveled to Bujumbura for an artist exchange facilitated by the United States Embassy in Burundi. Four of her photographs hang in the Art in Embassies exhibition at Ambassador Higgins’s residence: landscapes of Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, and Hawaii, nearly devoid of human presence, conveying awe in nature. During the exchange, Buxbaum held sessions with local photographers and photojournalists, took part in a women’s entrepreneur luncheon that was hosted by Ambassador Higgins, worked with local children, and spoke at the American Corner.
Throughout the week she spent in Burundi, Buxbaum met and held training sessions with several groups of photographers, each at a different stage of their journey. She spoke with primary-school-aged children about composition and how to use a camera. With emerging, young-adult photographers, she discussed technical skills and settings. She had a conversation with established professionals about storytelling, photography festivals, and the business of photography. The small group setting of these sessions allowed participants to feel more comfortable and willing to ask questions. She even separately held a photography training session for embassy staff.
Buxbaum also attended a luncheon with women entrepreneurs and an event at the American Corner Kamenge in Bujumbura with training session participants. At both events, she was able to interact with people one-on-one and get to know them on a personal level—with the added benefit that the attendees could practice their English. “I enjoyed learning about … how these dynamic, young people are getting their stories heard; I learned how they want to be the ones to define themselves and have their voices and perspectives heard,” Buxbaum said. A reception held at the Ambassador’s residence gave her and local photographers the opportunity to mingle with individuals from multiple international missions.
After a week of intense programming, Buxbaum reflected on the people she met and the experiences she had. Before she left, she was able to exchange contact information with session participants and has since been in touch, exchanging ideas and techniques. “Having participated in this exchange in a country, continent, and culture I am experiencing for the first time has helped me gain an understanding of our underlying cultural commonalities and helped me use my creativity in new ways to engage audiences.”