As many of you may or may not know, the University of California Education Abroad Program is running a photo contest for students currently participating in their program, which sends people to foreign countries and foreign schools that really don't resemble American schools at all and often have holes in the ceilings, perhaps the foreign form of air conditioning. I'm not sure. This sending people to foreign countries sounds rather positive (except in cases of slavery). I mean we like trying new things, traveling and all. These are good things. However wasting time is not a good thing, and I waste lots of time in class so that I can leave class and read and work on getting a real education, something that the University of California, in my experience, does not promote. As you may also know, I have been documenting my time in France, taking pictures and such. So naturally, the photo contest merited a response from me because I am young and foolish and stupid. This response and the ensuing correspondance follow below. It is all very, unfortunately, real.

23 February 2001
From: Ricky Opaterny
To: UCEAP Rep whom we will call Tipper Gore, although her real name is revealed in the email

Valerie, thanks for the notification of the photo contest. I must inform you, however that I will not enter it. Now why must I write you an email to say that I am not entering the contest when I could easily not enter the contest by not sending you an email. To put it simply, I would like to share my eap photos with you eap type people who enjoy such things.

The contest seems like a good idea and the prizes are good; I mean people like cash in America and other capitalist economies where freedom is essential. In light of such freedom, I am disappointed, upset even, that your contest tries to bend and misconstrue things by using art to promote the eap program, which incidentally is affiliated with the University of California system. Money is not a fair compensation for the sacrifice of ideals. And anyway, the UC regents already give me money and provide me with a free education that matches its cost by being mostly worthless. We should be lucky that we have photography--what a wonderful technology--lucky that people take photos, that they put them in expensive frames, share them with friends, keep them in albums, take them to foreign places and countries to evoke perfect memories in all their Kodak glory. And here, what are you doing? Using art that should be enjoyed because it is art to support your program, which I do not? What is wrong with you people? Are you people without opinions? Can you not just look at a photograph and say, "I like this," because simply liking things is good and we don't need to fit them into categories to promote ourselves?

You can, of course, still view my photos from eap in Toulouse at


23 February 2001
From: UCEAP Rep whom we stubornly continue to call Tipper Gore
To: Ricky Opaterny

Dear Ricky,

Thank you for sharing your photos and thoughts.

Many students enjoy sharing their memories with us, and we greatfully accept contributions and work with students to create slide shows when we have a student wanting to do so. For the last five years we have been requesting photos (and student testimonials), but we've received relatively few (but lots of promises and good intentions!)

It was suggested we add an element of incentive for already busy students to submit their work, in hopes that we would recieve some great photos that we could share with UC audiences and potential new students in our publications and the web. I'm hoping to put together a really nice calendar, and annual report, and use the shots in new brochure and poster designs. I believe that our students are in a better position to capture the EAP experience on film than professional photographers that we would need to hire, and am looking forward to seeing some great shots. I'm hoping the contest will provide the little extra incentive for students to send us their best shots.

May we use some of your photos in our materials, if we give you photo credit? If so, we will select some and get back to you re: captions.

Cordially from:
Valerie Swanson

24 February 2001
From: Ricky Opaterny
To: Val Swanson

Val, I have no problem with monetary compensation for photos. If someone is willing to give me money because I write a book or take some pictures, I will certainly accept. I am, in fact, dependant on the endurance of such exchange. However, the contest you are running is not that simple. Consider the scenario below involving an eap student who we will call Pierre because it is a foreign sounding name:

1. Pierre goes to foreign country and takes pictures.
2. Pierre hears about your contest, submits photos, wins $500 prize.
3. Pierre doesn't know what to do with the prize money since it is drawn on a US check and he is in a foreign country; but he figures things out soon enough.
4. Prize money is spent on groceries, books, Champagne (to celebrate winning of photo contest), and paying phone bill.
The story may appear to end here, but it does not because you have the photos, which will invariably be used to promote the eap program, an intention that may or may not correspond with Pierre's sentiments. Ultimately, that is the tragedy: one loses control of his art, and it is turned into a statement by people at eap offices.

I cannot offer unequivocal support of the eap program, and therefore would find it dishonest for me to allow you to use my photos for that purpose. As I stated earlier, I am not opposing the exchange of money for art--one that I need to survive--but another form of "selling out" that is more analogous to the "crooked rhymes" written by Paul Simon's poet to pay his rent, the twisting of art to serve a purpose really separate from the art itself. In the present case, it would be used to push your program to students. I don't mind people seeing my photos; I hope they will see them and come to this wonderful country--see the world. But is eap the right way to do this? Perhaps. Do I think so? Probably not, though it depends heavily on the individual. Does eap offer other options for college students to go abroad? Not in my experience. Are there other and possibly better options? Yes.

Your response seems to miss the point of my original email, but that is probably my fault for not being clear. (Is clarity is possible and to what degree?) I really don't expect to let you use my photos unless you do not separate them from my intent. Basically, the only way I would allow you to use them would involve the following: every time someone sees one of my photos they will also be forced to hear/read an unedited account of my thoughts on eap/going abroad--meaning my photos must always accompany my words, essay+photos on same page, slide show+me talking, whatever. This, of course, is very unlikely since I have much to say, much that is both good and bad, or beautiful and melancholy as the French might describe it in their odd paradoxical sort of way. I simply cannot offer my photos or words or ideas to you and your program if they are going to be distorted into a straight endorsement of eap, a blind endorsement that I refuse to make.


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