Summer 2014, YSA youth started a photo project. This photo project lasted two weeks, and local artists were invited to teach our youth about photography, video editing, and photojournalism. The artists and youth went around Berkeley, Oakland, and into San Francisco to capture images of people, places, and events that reminded them of freedom.
Many traveled to places they had never seen before. They tried to look at these places with a critical eye. If they saw graffiti on the wall, they would look at its fixed position, and wait for a moment in time, when someone would be walking past it. This juxtaposition of a stagnant and moving person helped them to see their surroundings differently.
A post program survey showed new learning:
• About 50% of youth had only taken pictures with an iPhone and never used a camera.
• Half of the youth visited a new place taking photographs.
• Half of the youth visited a familiar place taking photographs; 76% of these youth said they saw this place differently because of their photography lessons.
Each photo set our youth up to see life from new perspectives. For example, when pictures were taken without the person’s knowledge, it allowed the youth to see people through an artist’s eye, as a voyeur: as someone looking at their environment for beauty, as opposed to a participant in what was happening. It really urged youth up to think about pictorial composition and how it evolves from real life.
The post-survey supports that participating youth learned new compositional skills and an understanding of perspective taking:
• All of the youth learned at least one new photography skill. The youth believe this skill could help an art career.
• All youth explored an aspect of Freedom; 83% arrived at a new perspective of it through their photojournalism work.
The youth also learned about silhouettes, personal embraces, and how things could look interesting in a photograph if they were offset from the center. These were all tactics the youth learned to make a composition more interesting. Moreover, the youth learned personal skills such as talking to people and letting go of expectations. These led to the taking of better photographs and life skills our youth can utilize beyond art.
In the youth’s own words:
• “I enjoyed learning about the silhouette.”
• “I found it hard talking to random people on the street and asking to take their photo, but I noticed that it was easier when they had interesting clothes or traits you could point at.”
• “I learned about the different compositions that includes lighting, a moment out position, and making a perfect picture”
• “A good picture doesn’t have to be perfectly composed or taken with a professional camera. Anybody can take a great photo about anything. This lesson was my favorite, because, now, I feel confident going anywhere with my camera.”
• “I found talking to people hard because I’m a little afraid of people but I became ‘Artist [Name]’ and it was easier.”
• “A challenge I faced-don’t want to be afraid to take a picture even though you don’t feel fully prepared. This was difficult for me because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist.”
The photo project furthered the youths’ identities as artists. The youth felt empowered trying something new, doing things they were afraid of. As one youth sums up: “confidence comes after feeling successful. Whether you accomplished it or not, you should feel good you tried.”
Appendix of Photos: