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University of Missouri

Full Body

Mizzou alumna documents social and environmental issues in Peru.

Elie Gardner, BJ ’06, made this photo of prisoners engaged in Full Body, a fitness program combining dance, Tae-Bo and kickboxing, at the San Juan de Lurigancho Prison in Lima, Peru, June 14, 2013. The 1,200 prisoners, wearing colored uniforms corresponding to their cellblocks, worked out for three hours in an attempt to set the world record for the most people simultaneously performing the exercise.

Elie Gardner, BJ ’06, made this photo of prisoners engaged in Full Body, a fitness program combining dance, Tae-Bo and kickboxing, at the San Juan de Lurigancho Prison in Lima, Peru, June 14, 2013. The 1,200 prisoners, wearing colored uniforms corresponding to their cellblocks, worked out for three hours in an attempt to set the world record for the most people simultaneously performing the exercise.

MIZZOU magazine asked Elie Gardner, BJ ’06, about her work:

Q: What was your transition like from your newspaper staff job to becoming a freelance journalist?

A: The first year was a challenge. I entertained the idea of teaching English, becoming a barista, really anything to return to a steady paycheck. Thanks to the encouragement of other freelancers and my husband and business partner, Oscar Durand, I stuck to shooting and co-founded Inti Media. I’ve learned to believe more in myself, trust my skills and be more patient. Today I’m happy to be a freelancer, but I didn’t get to this point without some growing pains.

Q: What drew you to South America and Peru specifically?

A: Since I was young, I have been interested in speaking Spanish and loved the vibrant culture of Latin America. I studied abroad in Costa Rica and always dreamed of returning to Latin America. I chose Peru because of the country’s economic rise, strong presence of foreign nongovernmental organizations, and plethora of social and environmental issues. I saw these as indicators that I would find work here as a freelance photojournalist. The amazing food is also a nice bonus!

Q: What one thing did you learn at Mizzou that has helped you most in your career?

A: I remember being told more than once that by becoming a better, more well-rounded person I would become a better journalist.

Q: Did Nuñez Del Arco and his group break the Guinness World Record for most the most people practicing Full Body?

A: As far as I know, Nuñez del Arco still awaits official confirmation of the Guinness World Record.

Q: Has being a teacher of multimedia storytelling helped you become a better storyteller?

A: I would like to think so. That said, I learn by doing. Knowing and teaching the theory of something is very different than intuitively putting it into practice in the field. I can say that in the past three years as a freelancer, I have become a better teacher.

Q: If you could have your favorite CoMo dish mailed to you in Peru, what would it be?

A: Tough question, as I have a few favorite CoMo dishes. If I had to narrow it down to one, I’d take phat thai from Bangkok Gardens with a spice level of 3. And can I throw in a few Siam Village rolls, too?