Jelisa Peterson was born in Ogden, Utah, USA in 1969. When she was first gifted a point-and-shoot, she captured her first images of childhood joys that summer. While the goal was never becoming a professional photographer, She began immersing herself in her grandfather's family photos. In 1993, after earning a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology with a minor in Women's Studies, Jelisa began working as an information officer for Jekesa Pfungwa, an indigenous women's organization in Zimbabwe.
While photographing Zimbabweans' daily life for grant proposals, Jelisa's passion for photography began to grow. It was through capturing the beauty of Zimbabwe, she began to see photography as a way to connect people from various cultures. When she returned home after nine months, her friends and family were enthralled with her photos. It was then that she knew should would be able to infuse her for love for humanity and photography and build a lifelong career through it.
Jelisa has traveled the world, from Zimbabwe and Rwanda, to Egypt and Argentina in search of gaining and spreading cultural understanding and appreciation.
For more than two decades, Jelisa has focused her work on uniting her viewers with her photographic subjects by creating images that resonate the perfect examples of love and inspiration.
Jelisa's photography has been featured in galleries across the United States, and her articles have been published widely in magazines and journals, including Artisans Around The World, Golden Braid, Signs @ 40, and Contimuum. A permanent exhibition of her work is located at the Children's Museum of Utah. Jelisa currently lives in Texas, United States.
So many of the images of Africans we see in first world settings are based on negative
stereotypes of people devastated by poverty, disease and war; showing people who come from a
place that is wild and dangerous. This results in a very distorted vision of an entire continent of
people with diverse lives and circumstances. I believe that these characterizations tend to limit
our understanding of the very humanity of African people.
With my work from Mozambique, I want to resist these one dimensional characterizations to
express what I see and have experienced over the years. It is the Mozambicans themselves who
are my inspiration to create photography to be shared as widely as I am able. There is nothing
more motivating to me than starting my day before the sun rises to walk, to meet and talk with
people and observe them in their natural environments doing their daily activities. What is
always remarkable to me as the day passes is not the invalidating distortions of actual lives but
the tenderness, the curiosity and the beauty of the people.
My desire as an artist is to challenge the viewer to be more conscious of what they see and
conclude when they consume images of Africans, like Mozambicans. My images advance a
more positive and sensitive vision of people who are worthy of more insightful representation.
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