My Vision, My Voice: the Journey

Jaime Johnson, photography graduate student at Louisiana Tech University, has been journaling My Vision, My Voice, NCLAC’s photojournalism workshop held at Arcadia High School. Here are her entries from the adventure. 

Week one

My Vision My Voice Students:  Pumped for Photography!

 It’s the first class of My Vision, My Voice, a project to teach Arcadia High students to share their story through photography and writing. Ashley Feagin, Caleb Clark, Dacia Idom, Dan Snow, and myself arrive to Arcadia High School to see lines of yellow buses, and a sea of students flooding out the doors as we wait to begin our class with 12 Arcadia Students after school. Anticipation and energy is in the air as the 5 of us step through the doors of a high school again for the first time in years— this time as teachers.

We began by introducing the students to ourselves, and our photography, resulting in a conglomerate of different themes and an array of subject matter.  Dacia Idom weaved into her presentation powerful images from the field of journalism, emphasizing photography and its role, historically to tell a story, merging her own work that intertwines historical topics into her self portraiture.  Continuing on the topic of self portraiture, graduate student Ashley Feagin presented  to the students thoughtful and intimate examples of self portrait work, showing them how to share their own personal stories, and take images that tell a story, even without the actual presence of a person in the image.

The power of this project became evident as the students began a short writing exercise prepared by Feagin, whose assignment challenged the students to answer questions about themselves ranging from exploring their fears, to their favorite moments.  This assignment allowed them to begin to confront moments in their own personal lives in addition to contemplating their first assignment on self portraiture—how to create a photograph that is representative of themselves, essentially, telling their story.

The energy and passion of our students at Arcadia High erased my tensions as I realized the students of Arcadia were, in short, pumped, to start using their cameras and share their images, and in turn, their story.  I knew immediately that the My Vision, My Voice, was not simply a class, but a powerful tool for these students to grown and learn from, to share and express themselves uniquely and creatively through the lens and through writing. I knew that the opportunity to teach these students was opening doors for them to continue finding their voice and their vision during a pivotal time in their lives. The class came to an end, and the students, armed with cameras to take home into their home and community, were given the task to shoot self portraits for the next class.  The five of us La Tech photography students found ourselves eagerly anticipating the photographs the students would bring back, excited to begin seeing some of the results from the My Vision, My Voice project.

Caleb with students

Week 2

My Vision My Voice:  The Unveiling of Images!

As we walked into the classroom at Arcadia High for the second class of My Vision, My Voice, the five of us Photography students knew that today was the day we would begin to catch a glimpse into the life of the students.    Viewing their images, we knew we would learn more about them through their images.

We began the class by introducing some key components of photography:  lighting, and composition. Graduate student Dan Snow introduced the students to various types of lighting with examples, in addition to tips on how to shoot under various lighting conditions.   Afterwards, the students learned composition techniques and topics such as framing, usage of pattern, shooting at various angles, and the rule of thirds.  The lesson on lighting and composition would truly be their first lesson on photography and essentially allow the students to understand key elements of photography and help them make stronger images.

Finally, the moment arrived—the viewing of some of the student’s initial images from the last class.  We began reviewing images from several of the students on the projector; establishing and creating a dialogue and discussion while listening to the students explain their images. It was an elevating feeling as we were able to see some of the various strengths of the images that the students of Arcadia had incorporated prior to learning about composition and lighting. The students rose to the challenges of capturing a story, ranging from friends and family, scenes of home, and the neighborhood.   Armed with new techniques on composition and lighting, the students left to continue photographing for images to review next class.

Dan and Dacia with students

Week Three

 My Vision, My Voice:  Still going strong, photographing with passion!

Arriving to Arcadia High for our third class, I found myself struck by the power of photography and the ability to connect with the students as we reviewed more of their images one-on-one in groups.  Getting to hear them talk about their photographs, and seeing the excitement permeating from their faces as they eagerly watched the screen showed me these students were embracing My Vision, My Voice, with ardor and a zeal unrivaled.   With some one –on-one time to talk with each student about the images they had taken, we picked out their top 5 discussing the strength of the images as we reviewed them. Afterwards, Dan, Ashley, Caleb, Dacia, and myself gathered the top images from each student and projected them in front of the entire class. Narrowing down the images, we were able to choose two photographs from each student to get ready for printing for their upcoming show at the bank in Arcadia! Many of the students have never been to an art gallery, and none have had their work shown in an exhibition style setting before, so I am again feeling very honored to be a part of My Vision, My Voice, and that these students have an opportunity to do something that they would not ordinarily have had.

At the end of the class, Caleb Clark and Dacia Idom led a lecture on community, demonstrating the power of photography not just in the home, but also in the world.   Dacia then began the writing component of her presentation, introducing the class to the basic elements of conducting an interview—and the next challenge for the students—an assignment to conduct an interview and utilize the camera’s video function to record the interview.  The five of us gathered images selected earlier in the class to bring in the next class. Knowing our class is coming to an end, we left Arcadia, and again, eager to see the student’s bring back their interviews and prepare their writing component for their upcoming show.The workshop is ending this week, with an exhibition of the students’ writings and photographs at the Woodard Room of First National Bank in Arcadia. Thursday, from 5-6:30, you’ll find us with the students and their parents and teachers, discussing the journey that has been My Vision, My Voice 2011. You’re welcome to join us for viewing and celebrating their hard work.

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