artist, traveler, and computer geek Jon Harris 02
produces new magazine
When Jonathan Harris '02 travels abroad, he doesn't just follow
a guide book and snap pretty pictures of the sites. He carries what
he calls a "sketchbook," a bulky often-handmade journal
with thick, unlined paper that holds his written impressions, mementos
he picks up along the way, and his artwork. He filled 60 pages when
he spent three weeks in Burma last summer. "If I didn't keep
[a sketchbook], I wouldn't really enjoy traveling because so much
of it is recording and digesting what I see," says Harris.
He carries a set of watercolors with him everywhere. "The
act of drawing focuses you in the present tense and really demands
that you notice what's happening," says Harris, whose travel
experiences and artistic ability helped spark a new magazine, Troubadour,
which in a sense is an extension of his sketchbooks.
When he returned to Princeton last fall, fresh from his summer
travels in Asia and the previous semester studying abroad in Australia,
he felt "shell shocked," particularly after traveling
alone in Burma, where he learned straight from the people about
its oppressive military regime. "I was a little bit unsure
how to be with people again. I would find myself standing around
my good friends and not having anything to say to them."
Classmate Daniel Hafetz, who spent the fall of his junior year
in Cape Town, South Africa, then traveled to Namibia, Zimbabwe,
and Mozambique, also had difficulty fitting back into the college
culture. Before long, Hafetz and Harris decided to start a magazine
for students to share their travel stories. They hashed out their
mission statement, gathered student editors, and started soliciting
manuscripts and artwork. "Pretty soon it had taken on a life
of its own," says Harris.
Bursting with gripping photographs and beautiful illustrations,
Troubadour is a literary journal aimed at promoting crosscultural
awareness through the travel narratives of students, alumni, and
faculty members. "Our interest is not with tourism," reads
its mission statement, "but rather with how people understand
themselves through where they've been." The inaugural issue
published last January included an original poem by Paul Muldoon,
a photographic essay of kids who live in trailer parks along Route
1 in New Jersey, a short piece by a student who volunteered with
the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, and stories by Harris
and Hafetz about their own journeys in Burma and South Africa, respectively.
The magazine "allows students, faculty, and alumni to collaborate,
side by side on the production of something that extends and reinterprets
the definition of travel and the definition of art and literature
and allows people like Paul Muldoon to publish alongside potential
great writers of tomorrow," says Harris, who spends up to five
hours a day working on the magazine.
"We didn't know what was going to happen," says Harris.
"We just threw it out there." They accepted no advertising,
relying instead on a few donors and university departments to cover
the cost of production. After its successful reception, the editors
are starting to think bigger. "Faculty came to us and said
this could be something that if taken to the next level, could redefine
Princeton as a place known for its literary and artistic merits
and not just for its Woodrow Wilson School, accounting courses,
and investment-banking track."
The second issue, which came out May 6, focused on "all things
international" but also on helping Americans reinvision their
own backyards, says Harris. The issue featured a photo-essay on
a community for the handicapped in New York, a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa,
and a study of the memorialization of Leo Tolstoy's house in Russia.
Harris and Hafetz plan on staying with Troubadour next year and
hope to see it grow beyond Princeton, but at the same time keeping
its university ties. Harris would like to see the magazine distributed
in secondary school libraries and used as a teaching tool for social
A computer science major, Harris not only designed the magazine
but also Troubadour's unusual Web site (http://www.troubadourmagazine.org).
He's been designing Web sites for several years. His clients include
a historic Bed & Breakfast in Massachusetts and consulting companies
in New England. Next year he will continue his freelance Web design
business to make ends meet.
All this from someone who before coming to Princeton had sent
a total of three emails, from a borrowed account. "I took the
basic introduction to computer science course that's designed for
lacrosse and hockey players," says Harris. But he soon discovered
he had a knack for design. For his senior thesis, he developed Extra
Extra! (www.cs.princeton.edu/~jjharris/thesis), a Web site that
collects similar news stories from foreign newspapers so a user
can read different perspectives of the same event.
Although he didn't fiddle with computers until going to college,
Harris has been fiddling with paper and paints since he was a little
kid making his own cartoon characters and comic strips. "I've
always loved creating things," says Harris, whose single in
Edwards Hall is decorated with his watercolor and oil paintings,
photos from Burma and Vietnam, and a scarf from Vietnam, among other