Sewickley Academy photography exhibit punctuates basic need

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A Sewickley Academy senior is using her passion for photography to help people sustain a basic need in impoverished countries.

Rupali Goel of Upper St. Clair, and an academy student since seventh grade, is working with a Pittsburgh-based photographer to create an exhibit of photos surrounding the theme of water.

A gallery event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 5 in Sewickley Academy's Campbell Gallery, outside of Rea Auditorium. There is no charge for admission, but donations will be collected and framed art will be sold for Goel's charity, The Water Project Inc. In addition, anyone making a donation of $10 will receive a print of one of the photos on exhibit. Light refreshments will be provided.

“People always want to donate iPads and technology to struggling countries, but without basic needs — like water — what good do those things do them? That's why I wanted to help The Water Project,” Goel said.

The Water Project Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides means to secure sustainable water projects to communities in sub-Saharan Africa that lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation.

“I decided to get involved with The Water Project and ultimately make the theme of my gallery centered around water because water is essential for any type of progress to be made in Third World countries. It is ultimately the most important thing we can provide people with because education means nothing if people do not have access to this basic necessity.

“It is something we take for granted in America and are not aware of the water scarcity around the world,” said Goel, 18.

She added that while she was researching for her project, the statistics pointing to the number of people around the world without clean water access “shocked” her.

“I read that 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases,” she said.

Goel was familiar with the work of photographer Farha Ali, who had done senior portraits for some of her friends at school and developed a following for her photographic work while a student at the University of Pittsburgh. Ali graduated from Pitt in 2013 and works as a freelance photographer, covering weddings, personal photo shoots and cityscapes. She's earning money through her art to attend medical school, and currently works at UPMC Presbyterian.

Goel, who fell in love with photography in ninth grade, taught herself digital photography and became editor of her school newspaper, hoped to learn new skills through working with Ali.

Ali said when Goel reached out to her about the project, she was excited for the chance to do it.

“We went out together in Pittsburgh looking for ideas and a theme for the gallery, and it seemed natural. We had a great time working on it together, and it's such a good cause,” Ali said.

Ali said she is happy to help Goel hone her photography skills while raising money to help The Water Project, which teaches people to dig wells, catch rain and protect fresh-water sources.

At least half of the dozens of photos on exhibit during the event will be Goel's.

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