Photographs are a way of sharing our world. Scrapbooks, family albums, and the endless Facebook feed of snapshots, we’re remembering moments and telling each other, see. Visualize my world.
I was standing on the pavement behind the elementary school a few weeks ago as the kids played basketball and night was falling. Another teacher pointed at the black silhouette of the pine trees against the yellow-gray winter sky. “I’ve tried to take pictures of that so many times. It never comes out the same as it looks.” With every photograph, you don’t get the whole world, reproduced exactly as it feels, but you’ll get the idea.
The idea is that there’s something there, something worth capturing.
At the beginning of the year, I wanted to do a photography project with my students. I wanted an ongoing photography workshop that would allow the kids to seek out and document their environment. I wanted them to see their surroundings through a lens.
What if we could buy awesome cameras and help them to use it properly, teach them how to edit their photos, allow them to take the camera home, and document their lives? The children of fishermen in the springtime taking photos of their dads putting the boats in the water, the Hispanic children taking pictures in their family’s restaurant or at the día de las madres celebration in May, the boy who likes hunting taking it with him on a trip. How about if they were taught not only to take pictures but to make art? The kids could start a blog of their work and continuously run updates of their photos. Maybe the blog could raise awareness and exposure of our youth development program. The kids could choose their best photo for framing, and we could work with a local art gallery to set up an exhibit. It would allow them to see their accomplishments, be proud of their work, and it would involve them in the process of creativity and productivity. Their parents could come to see each child’s work and the beauty with which their children view their world.
I imagined that children with cameras, armed with a task to capture their world, would be powerful. I read about photo projects like Kids with Cameras, the subject of a powerful documentary Born Into Brothels, and remembered my sorority sister from college who started PhotoTEACH in Durham, North Carolina.
I have talented, creative friends who have such a gift in taking pictures, finding the wrinkles and lines, showing how people are so beautiful. Two of these friends, Brittany and Christina, responded to my last photography idea and ran with the project. They made the Survivor Stories: These Are Our Voices exhibit possible, incredible. They exposed the strength and courage of survivors of sexual violence, gave people a chance to see a social issue in a new way. Their work reminded me of the power of creativity. I remember one person wrote in the guest book in the gallery during Survivor Stories, This exhibit is power.
Where does that power come from? We are drawn into the visuals, the way it makes the world real. Now, after proposing my idea to Golden Key International Honor Society, I was awarded the funds to get the workshop started with my kids here. Everything I imagined will be possible. As simple as it sounds—kids with cameras—I am so eager to see what the project will produce. One of my co-workers and fellow AmeriCorps majored in photojournalism and already offered to get onboard and help. Christina and I are so excited, emailing back and forth, and planning for her to come up and help teach the kids. I am perusing cameras and reviewing my budget.
I’m brought back to my days as a kid where my mom sent me to photography classes and I was making pinhole cameras out of cardboard boxes, developing them in a dark room, and I am remembering my first point-and-shoot box camera. I can’t wait to get my kids as excited about it as I’ve always been.
Together, we’ll learn something new. Maybe one of them will become the next award-winning photojournalist. Maybe we’ll create something fantastic. All I know is, we’re going to have so much fun as we *snap* capture the world together.