Photographer's images portray life in Ghana

Twenty-three large-scale, color photographs now on display in Gallagher Student Center | August 5, 2005

It took a translator, talks with village and tribal leaders, and a constant battle with oppressive heat, smog and humidity, but the result is a fascinating portrayal of life in Ghana by Gregory Rust, the University's director for photography.

Rust’s 23 large-scale, color photographs are now on display in the Faces of the World Lounge on the second floor of the Gallagher Student Center. The lounge area is dedicated to bringing awareness of cultures worldwide. The display runs through December and is free and open to the public seven days a week.

Rust was in Ghana in conjunction with Xavier’s first service-learning semester in the developing African country. Ten students lived with local families and studied and worked in Ghana this past spring.

Rust uses a subtle mix of anthropology, professional experience and intuition to create photographs that lay bare the underlying thread of humanity common to all people. His masterful use of color, light and composition produce an almost-instant bond of familiarity between subject and viewer, regards of the setting or location.

“The heat in Ghana was oppressive, pushing up towards 100 degrees,” Rust says. “That coupled with the high humidity, dust and smog made it even more challenging to capture the images.”

A self-described cultural chameleon, Rust says he tries to blend into a culture as much as possible and not be obtrusive. “A translator helped me get to the places I wanted to get to and to meet the people I needed to meet,” Rust explains. That included meetings with village and tribal leaders who gave their blessing to Rust’s presence in their communities.

“My background is in anthropology so this type of image is my passion,” he continues. “No matter the subject my guiding principle remains a quote from cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict: ‘The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.’”

Rust has been director for photography at Xavier for more than 20 years. During his tenure he has traveled on assignment to Nicaragua, Nepal, El Salvador and Guatemala. He is also the official photographer for the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals. His work has been widely shown and has been recognized with numerous national and regional awards.