Julie-Irene Nkodo ’18 was in her second year of Columbia Law School when she decided to launch a major photo project, “Faces of Columbia Law.” Inspired by the famous Facebook page (and best-selling photo book), Humans of New York, Nkodo went about photographing and interviewing fellow law students. “The goal of the conversations was not to evoke any particular emotion but rather to learn more about the diversity of people who attend the law school, and to shatter the glass—move beyond surface-level,” she writes on her site.
The relaxed, intimate portraits and interviews touch on everything from law and global citizenship to the meaning of success and love.
Below is a sampling of images from the project.
“If I have a little girl I want her to be ambitious, to be aggressive in her pursuits, to be unapologetically herself but I want her to be judicious with how she interacts with the outside world emotionally. I would be remiss, if I as a male, could feel like I could impart emotional lessons [in our society], but I know if and when I have my baby girls...I'm going to treat them like queens.”
“If there is anything to be said about a global citizen—and I would be honored to be called that—it’s that it has to be someone who can translate their own culture, translate who they are and what they’re saying without getting frustrated.”
“I met a few people in law school whose desire to do good things in the world and sense of responsibility for other people really inspires me. I’m grateful for them. Meeting people like that helps me put my situation in perspective and [reflect on] what my challenges are and what I want to do with my opportunities.”
“Honestly, I think I’m inspired by home. I’m inspired by the situations I’ve been in, and the people I’ve met and maybe it’s because I’m not in Ghana but when I think, ‘I want to do this type of work,’ it’s because I’ve seen that at home, or when I think ‘I want to study this,’ it's because I’ve been in those situations and they remind me of home.”
“There was always an expectation that the men in my family would be doctors. I was a senior in college, I had taken the MCAT, and had applied to medical school. I had technically gotten into medical school and thought I was going to go. Long story short, I went to a hospital to volunteer with my brother. The things he saw on a day-to-day basis, I could never take that home at night.”
“[My biggest influence] right now [is] J.K. Rowling. Re-reading those books, re-watching the movies and learning about her life—how she planned in advance for seven books so she could build up to [the end]. You should set yourself up for certain things, you shouldn’t only plan for next year, you should probably plan far into the future as well. She was also a single mother on welfare, but she was persistent. I love that about her.”
“When I think about my biggest influences, I think about my parents—especially my father. People talk about the hours attorneys work, my father worked 18–20 hours every single day in order to put food on the table, to provide a roof over our heads, to give us everything we had. I don’t know how he did it for so many years. To think about the cards he was dealt in life and how he made the most of it—I don't know how I would have made it [if I was in his shoes].”
“...[A]bove all, I associate love with sacrifice. It’s about a willingness to do or be or say something for another person despite what the consequences might be for you. [My understanding of love comes] from my parents. I come from a family where things aren’t always expressed in words...so the love language we end up using most is actions...At some level for love to be sustainable, for [it] to carry weight, sacrifice is necessary.”
“[My family is] originally from Turkey but [with] the Armenian genocide, we had to leave for Syria. With the civil war, and specifically with ISIS targeting Christians, even [Syria] is not hospitable to my people. Now [the U.S.] has rejected the existence of us in this space. There’s the country of right, Turkey, the country of love, my motherland, Syria, and the country of home, U.S. When I think about how all three countries reject my people, I feel a very personal connection to [refugee work].”
“My goal is to live in Japan and try to better U.S-Japan relations. When I was growing up in Tokyo, I didn’t know anyone whose mom was in the professional workforce. I want to go back to Tokyo, [be a role model] and hopefully teach at a law school there. My main goal in law school was to write something that furthered the discourse between the U.S. and Japan...and [my note] just got selected for publication! I’ve been working [towards] this for so long, it’s why I came here.”
Posted on August 7, 2017