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Aya Okawa

Visual anthropologist, photographer and creative who believes in the power of visual art to transform perception. Experienced ethnographer, researcher and media director. Published and exhibited by National Geographic, Washington Post, California Academy of Sciences, and others.

Aya is a visual anthropologist and photographer who is passionate about telling individual and community stories to empower respectful coexistence between individuals, societies and the natural world. In her photographic work she explores patterns in natural & human-created landscapes, and is committed to supporting balanced coexistence in ecosystems, wild lands, and human communities.

As Global Academy’s Creative and Media Director, Aya investigates personal development and systems change, documenting the individual and collective stories of innovative leaders and their organizations who work for sustainability and creative solutions to global challenges.

With a background in cultural psychology and anthropology, Aya has extensive ethnographic experience working internationally and with refugee communities in the United States in the mental health field. She founded and directed two San Francisco Bay Area-based multi-generational oral history projects and believes that community storytelling can support us to learn from each other and our collective histories.

As a photographer, she shoots abstracts and landscapes from an aerial perspective. Her work has been published in the National Geographic, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the Smithsonian Magazine, among others. She is currently working on a collection of photo series visually exploring the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Her work was included in the Climate Reality Project in 2017, and has been on exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, and the PhotoFest exhibition ‘A Planet In Balance’ curated in collaboration with National Geographic.