ElevArte Blog

ElevArte Studio

The Power of Photography

How do you hope to
impact students through your Journeys/Migrations and the Document program?

The impact I hope to make with this course is the idea that art is not just an isolated process but one deeply rooted in a community of makers and peers. This course is presented in a way where students have a direct role in its formation; I’m simply here as a facilitator of information and process. Each student (through discussion and group work) determines what they want to do with the material and tools given. Of course I have exercises planned to push and develop their process, but it is what they do together that determines the real outcome. My intentions are that their time working together and the community that they build together is the most exciting part of what we do together.

What skills will students walk away with after the class is done?

I want students to walk away with the confidence and ability to better communicate an idea. Talking about your ideas and how to give them a place in your work, is a major component of what we do in the Journeys/Migrations course. It’s about having an opinion and being able to share how you came to that opinion and support those ideas. I ask students to have a voice, but more importantly, be able to defend and support an idea with facts and information. That's when learning is the most important and exciting for me, and I try to replicate that in my class.

Secondly, I want students to be able to work together. The most fun I have, as a learner and as an artist, is when I work with other people. The time to create with other people and work through challenges is sometimes a difficult period, but when you remain persistent and work though a challenging time with other people the outcome is so much more empowering. So group work and collaboration would have to be another skill I want students to gain.

What is it about photography that makes it a powerful medium for youth to learn?

In this session, we are taking a closer look at media and representation more than we have done in the past few years. With our current social networking tools available to students and our own intrinsic need to be “seen,” I thought that we should spend time thinking about images and our visual culture. Photography is a natural course for this discussion and coming short of just making portraits; the medium and our exercises are asking students to consider how they are represented and are representing themselves. No longer do we need a second party to validate our beauty or image and be presented to the world. I wanted this course to look closer at how students perceive themselves and how they wanted to present their image and documentation of their identities to others. Photography is how we are opening up this discussion for them and others.

How have the students impacted you as a teaching artist?

I’ve become a better researcher and presenter of information. Whenever I’ve decided that I’m doing something in the most perfect fashion - I am quickly reminded that it wasn’t as clear as I thought. Students will openly share their confusion and then I have to go back to my drawing board and figure out a better way to communicate an exercise, theme or tool to them. My students have made me a better Artist and Teaching Artist because of all of these revisions, and the need to master/process information in such a way that I can share with them and they are able to engage in it equally.

Well I probably would sell the program first to the teen, but if I had to communicate why a parent might encourage their youth to participate is primarily because they are going to have a good time. Their child will be encouraged to think, build their communication skills, and yes, they will learn about photography (of course) and how to use digital editing software and cameras. All of that will happen in this course, but most importantly, their youth will be in a program that will challenge them to “make in” and “think” about their world.

Do you think arts programming combats youth violence?

This is a question that I have asked myself since I started working in communities in 2002, and since then my ideas have evolved over the years. Right now, I can say that whatever “combat” we are doing or hope to accomplish in regards to violence has nothing to do with “art” or “basketball” or whatever activity youth are involved in. It’s the involvement in something, the belonging to a place, to a community that supports each young person through a practice of love, community, leadership and confidence building.

It's only then that the art program or the basketball program or the writing workshop, etc can combat a culture of violence that makes up our society. It’s when these elements are effectively brought together in a program, in an organization or other youth focused space and the adult leaders are just as invested in these practices can anything really be combated. Have you ever heard a young person say that they rather do something positive or “I decided to go come to program” instead of venturing out with friends that may or may not end up negatively? That student weighed their options, looked at the situation or potential situation and made a decision. It’s that decision making that we want to encourage with our youth and where we can begin challenging a culture of violence.

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