Dear World: More than a portrait


Dear World is a story telling event that travels the world.

By Kacey Bowen

Sixty thousand portraits. One story.

That is what Dear Wold has accomplished.

The Dear World Campaign is a program that travels the world asking people to share their story. But this campaign is different from others, because people share their story by writing it on their skin.

“Writing on someone is extremely intimate,” said executive producer of Dear World, Jonah Evans.

He said it is an invitation to ask someone why they believe what they believe.

“It’s beyond the ‘here’s the resume version of my life. Life is great just look at my Instagram feed.'” Evans said. “This is an acknowledgment that there’s more below the surface if you just ask.”

Rachel Heffelfinger shares her story. "LBGTQ. Open & unapologetic" (Photo courtesy: Dear World)
Rachel Heffelfinger shares her story. “LBGTQ. Open & unapologetic” (Photo courtesy: Dear World)

Rachel Heffelfinger, a sophomore habilitation of the deaf and hard of hearing major, said that writing your story on your skin forces you to be vulnerable and open. It does not allow you to hide behind the comfort of being “safe.”

“Everyone has something beautiful to share,” Heffelfinger said. “This gives people the opportunity to be real and show what you are truly passionate about.”

Jack May shares his story: "Bless Others." (Photo courtesy: Dear World)
Jack May shares his story: “Bless Others.” (Photo courtesy: Dear World)

Jack May, a sophomore business major, said that Dear World bridges the gap between people and groups, letting everyone see the commonalities between one another.

“It highlights the best part of TCU which is its people,” May said.

Dear World began in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After the city had gone through so much destruction, Evans said they asked people to share stories of encouragement, love, loss, fear and hope.

Evans said during one shoot, a couple asked him if they could do something different. That is when he realized this movement and these stories were so much more than one city.

Photo courtesy: Dear World
Photo courtesy: Dear World

“It became very clear that it wasn’t about New Orleans anymore,” Evans said. “It was unlocking something essential, that people want to share these stories.”

Even if people do not have a story to tell at first, writing anything down can mean something to someone in a bigger sense, said Hawk Swearingen, a sophomore business major.

Following his first Dear World photo, Hawk Swearingen tatooted "Live Well on his chest. (Photo courtesy: Hawk Swearingen)
Following his first Dear World photo, Hawk Swearingen tattooed “Live Well” on his chest. (Photo courtesy: Hawk Swearingen)

Swearingen said he went to Dear World last year on a whim not knowing what to write. So he wrote “live well” randomly across his chest and took a picture. But, afterwards, he could not stop looking at the picture.

“I never realized how much it meant to me,” Swearingen said.

What he wrote resonated with him so much that the following summer Swearingen tattooed “live well” on his chest. It’s a reminder to “live everyday like your last, because it very well could be.”

Will Jezek, director of Dear World at TCU, said he hopes this program will unite TCU’s campus.

“It’s going to depict a sense of inclusion as well as reveal to our community that we are one together, Horned Frogs first,” Jezek said

He said the program is about not just having the conversations now, but continuing to share these messages throughout the year.

“It’s revealing some of the issues we don’t talk about on a daily basis,” Jezek said.

Evans said that throughout everything — busy lives, schedules and day-to-day living — Dear World is a chance to step back and reflect on what gets you up in the morning and inspires you.