July 24th, 2014
We recently finished a wonderful program called Beyond the Lens. Our Union Gardens Elm Street Program partnered with Owen Biddle Photo School, the Lansdowne Public Library, and Julio Corcino, an employee at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who had the dream of launching a photography project for Philadelphia Middle School and High School students. The idea was to get the kids excited about taking pictures as an alternative to violent solutions to problems. Owen, Julio, and several volunteers provided instruction and guidance for the kids in learning to use their cameras, to take great pictures that document their lives and interests, and then helped them create shows and presentations as ways to give back to the community.
Our goal was to provide children between the ages of eight and fourteen with donated film cameras and instruction in photography as a means of expression, a creative outlet and an alternative to violence. We believe that as children develop photography skills and collaborate on photography projects, they would learn critical life lessons including working together, objectivity, delayed gratification (no digital cameras here!) and technical expertise. As they become photojournalists of their own lives they will develop their own voices.
According to Owen Biddle, “Objectivity is intrinsic to photography and as they document their own lives and experiences, they may pause, step back and gain perspective that will help as they mature. As the children work on photo projects that may be shared in various venues, they will be able to give back to their communities. We plan to show the importance of striving for excellence and setting high expectations, and high standards. These are all lessons that are vital to becoming an individual and a successful adult.”
The project culminated in a show at the library where students talked about how the program changed their outlook and in some cases, changed their lives. This video, prepared by Abbe Klebanoff, Head of Public Services at the Lansdowne Public Library, highlights the talents and skills of the teenagers who participated.