GUS Alumna Simone Salvo '04 at the Magnum Foundation

GUS alumna Simone Salvo ’04, the daughter of artist and GUS art teacher Dawn Southworth, taking after her mother, is established in the art world. She currently manages communications and operations at the Magnum Foundation, a nonprofit organization expanding creativity and diversity in documentary photography. Through grantmaking and collaborative programming, she helps socially engaged image-makers activate new models for impactful storytelling. Salvo explains, “I wear a lot of hats, but my main focus at the Magnum Foundation is to produce print and digital campaigns and identify opportunities to bring grantee projects into the public sphere. My absolute favorite part of my work is creating street-based exhibitions that push documentary photography back out into the world—the place of its making—to reach an audience who might not otherwise engage with it.”

One example is an ongoing project Salvo produced called #reframeclimate, which began as a visual intervention in Paris during the COP21 Climate Change Summit. Collaborating with the grassroots photojournalism collective #Dysturb, they pasted large-scale images in the streets that challenged the stereotypical notions of what climate change looks like, hoping to expand and deepen perceptions of its implications. With help from researchers from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and technologists from NYU Tisch, the collaborators were able to provide each pasted image with a pertinent statistic on environmental justice and a prompt for a text-messaging interaction that triggered a phone call for viewers to hear the story behind the image directly from the photographer.

Salvo feels that, in today’s political climate, support for critical, varied, and artist-driven narratives is urgently needed. The Magnum Foundation supports the belief that the world benefits from independent and diverse voices that seek to challenge the status quo, propel issues into public consciousness, and offer constructive ideas and solutions. “I especially believe that we are a more empathetic, inspired, and accountable public when we can access, share, and engage with a range of perspectives,” claims Salvo.

When asked how Glen Urquhart prepared her for secondary school and beyond, Salvo proudly responds, “GUS instilled in me an enthusiastic sense of curiosity and the confidence I needed to explore. My secondary school, Phillips Academy Andover, was very competitive—an environment for which I felt uniquely prepared because I had learned at GUS to value doing my best over being the best. From Andover to my studies at Bard College, and from where I am today to where I’ll be tomorrow, such a lesson is forever applicable.”

Her favorite GUS project is, of course, the famous White Shirt Project, created by her mother—  a rite of passage she notes that all GUS students eagerly await. “I’ve come back to GUS the past few years to photograph all the 8th graders’ pieces for their art show and it’s always such a nostalgic experience. Even though the campus has changed and expanded, so much of what I cherished about my time there has remained an essential part of the fabric.” She adds, “To this day, my mantra is trust and go forward. Seriously! My three years at GUS were so formative because I was exposed to such a variety of activities, classes, and performance opportunities, and encouraged to approach each one with my own personality and imagination.”

Whitney Buckley