We’ve had a friend visiting this weekend, so of course we’ve snapped some iPhone shots of the dogs and a few landscape views. That’s about as deep as I get into photography much of the time, using it as shorthand to great memories, but I have always loved and respected those who use the medium as art, and cut to a deeper level of understanding, exploration, and enlightenment via images. There are some outstanding programs that put the potentially powerful and earth-shifting tool of a camera into the hands of under-served youth, helping with expression and discovering identity, community, etc. Programs are different from one organization to the next, but usually involve a great, bonding connection with a mentor who teaches not only the technical skills of photography, but also how to see the world in a new way. Self esteem and creativity grow, and when the work is shared, public recognition of talent and ownership of a valid vision can completely change a young person’s life. Can you imagine the power in hearing, perhaps for the first time, that your perspective matters? To be able to proclaim “This is how I see my world” or “This is what matters most to me in my environment” or even “Your probably never would have guessed this about my life”…it is an enormous door swinging wide open.
Find a photography (or other field of creative expression education) program for youth near you, and get behind it…donate your underused camera, make a monetary/support donation, volunteer to mentor. If our schools find creative education dispensable as they need to slash budgets, let’s find ways to take a stand for never slashing it from our children’s lives. It is far too high a price to pay.
Here are a few photography programs to peruse–there are many, many more–and perhaps one waiting to be started by you!
Paterson Youth Photography Project (in Paterson, New Jersey)
FOCUS Youth Photography Project(in West Oakland and San Jose, CA)
Focus on Youth (in Portland, OR)
Rural Youth Photography Project (based out of East Tennessee University)
Green Spaces Alliance “Picture Your World” (in South Texas)
Youthlight Project (in Baltimore, MD)
Lapwai Youth Photography Project (in Lapwai, ID on the Nez Perce Reservation)