HONEOYE FALLS — A professional visit to a Nicaraguan community several years ago led to a long-term labor of love for Kris Dreessen of Honeoye Falls.
The Honeoye Falls-Lima alumna, whose job as manager of editorial resources for SUNY Geneseo includes overseeing the alumni magazine, traveled to El Sauce in Nicaragua, where a service learning project was run by alumni.
"I went with two students to document their experiences in Nicaragua, and I fell in love with the place — the people and their grass-roots efforts to rebuild the town after civil war and economic downturn," Dreessen said. "It's very off the beaten path — no businesses are going to locate there. People are pretty much on their own to develop their own businesses and ways of making money."
Since that visit, Dreessen has been active both in lending a hand to these efforts — in 2006 founding the Friends Project, in which contributors assist with resident-driven projects for community improvement and sustainable development — and in documenting, through photography, the experiences of the community and other Latin American communities as they struggle to make new and better futures for themselves.
This week, Dreessen is sharing those experiences in a pop-up gallery exhibition of photos called "Life in Remote Places: A Fragile Balance," setting up in Bodywork Kneaded at 5 W. Main St., Honeoye Falls. It includes photographs taken in El Sauce and in Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon communities. The showings will be 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, and Friday, Aug. 23. Dreessen, a former reporter with Messenger Post Media, will speak about the work at 7:30 p.m. both evenings.
Also, Javier Rocha, an English teacher in the El Sauce community, will be on hand to speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Along with Dreessen's own photographs — many of which focus on milestones El Sauce families recently have achieved in finding markets for their baskets and organic coffee — will be images taken by young people of El Sauce as part of another project she launched, The Friends Photo Project, in which teens document their own lives. Prints will be for sale and benefit their scholarships for high school and college.
"You get to see El Sauce through their eyes instead of mine," Dreessen said.
The "Fragile Balance" in the title refers to the natural world, which can manifest as both ally and enemy. Some of the images, for example, are of colonists in the Brazilian rain forest dealing with a major mosquito infestation after being relocated by a hydroelectric company that sought to build a dam. Others are of the people of El Sauce building on their own resources to develop the ecotourism industry. Sometimes people make themselves enemies of nature: Some photos show people poaching caimans, for instance.
"It's a blend of the five years of photographs documenting work, life and economic-development efforts in El Sauce and the broader theme of the fragile balance — the struggle to survive, to work for and against nature, and what we start to lose if people can't find that balance," Dreessen said.
In El Sauce, that balance seems to be being stuck, through the work of the residents and the support of efforts such as The Friends Project. Projects assisted by Friends donors range from installing window screens on homes to prevent malaria to helping coffee farmers find a U.S. market for their product and providing artisan training to basket makers. Last year, thanks in part to Friends Project donors, the mountain community of Las Minitas, Nicaragua, saw its first school open.
Some 35 children in grades kindergarten through six attend the school, Dreessen said.
For more information about The Friends Project and the gallery show, visit www.facebook.com/TheFriendsProject
If you go:
WHAT "Life in Remote Places: A Fragile Balance" pop-up gallery exhibit
WHEN Wednesday, Aug. 21, and Friday, Aug. 23, both 6-9 p.m.; with photographer introduction at 7:30 p.m. both nights; presentation by Las Minitas English teacher Javier Rocha at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE Bodywork Kneaded, 5 W. Main St., Honeoye Falls