Meeting with Local Students

This young student had fun playing with a plastic "Holga" camera.(photo by Erin Kelly)My name is Garvin, and I am a relative new comer to Project Basho. I am a darkroom monitor on Sunday afternoon.

I participated in the Cultural and Community Celebration at Kensington Culinary High School on Saturday, May 30. I was very pleased to meet some local students who are interested in our free photography class for teens. I also met members of our community that are going to help spread the word about our photography outreach program in the area.

The Principal of Kensington Culinary High School, Mr. Williams, introduced himself and shared news that the school is expanding their art program starting next year. He has hired two new art teachers and is hoping to work with us on future projects.

I also let some local elementary school students play with my vintage Nikon SLR and my Holga plastic camera. The kids had a blast running around and taking pictures of each other. Some of them truly caught the “shutterbug.” In a few years when they are older, they will be the perfect candidates to learn photography in our teen outreach program.

Overall, we had a great time at the event and were thrilled to be invited to participate. I want to thank Cindy, Olga and Erin for helping out and Jackie Lopez from City Year Philadelphia for inviting us to the event.

This young student took a self-portrait with Erin's point and shoot camera (Erin appears in the background).

This young student took a self-portrait with Erin's point and shoot camera (Erin appears in the background).

Portrait taken by a local elementary school student.

Portrait taken by a local elementary school student.

Portrait taken by a local elementary school student.

Portrait taken by a local elementary school student.

Pilot Program in Planning Stages

On the evening of April 5th a small group met to discuss a shared desire to bring a photography outreach program to our local community. The idea, in its more simple form, is to run a free photography class for local teens  for six weeks during July and August.

Ambitiously, we hope  to kick off our pilot program this summer.  Three experienced teachers have volunteered their time and expertise for our first summer outreach session.  The program is geared for students ages 12 to 16 and will encompass all aspects of traditional black and white photography including, how to use a camera,  develop film, and make prints in the darkroom.  Students will be encouraged to photograph their surroundings as well as objects and persons familiar to them.  The six week session will culminate in a  gallery show exhibiting the students’ photographs. Family, friends, and members of the community will be invited to attend and show support for the young photographers.

The Outreach Team is now working on connecting with students to participate in the pilot program and in raising funds to make our vision a reality.  Project Basho will need the support of friends, sponsors, and the larger community to secure the cameras, film, and paper necessary to run the program. Together, we know we can run a viable outreach program that will positively impact youth in our community.

First Thing First: Inspiration

My name is Tsuyoshi, and I am the Program Director at Project Basho.

For a long time, I have been interested in running an outreach program based on what we know— photography. I have had this idea since I started Project Basho six years ago. This was one of the key concepts that I wanted to actualize through Project Basho.

Since then, I looked into many different programs in the US to see if there was something we could replicate. I was inspired by Marshal Clarke, a Baltimore based photographer who has been running a small program with inner-city kids. Of course, I was also intrigued by the writing of Wendy Ewald, the founder of Literacy Through Photography at Duke University and an influential author of “I Wanna Take Me a Picture.” Though I was encouraged by many examples such as these, I never thought that I had enough time or resources to start an ambitious project like this on my own. Running a small organization like Project Basho has been more than a full time job. To me, the issue has always been the matter of time and resources.

Something changed my mind recently. I stumbled on a talk on TED by Jose Abreu, who runs El Sistema, a youth orchestra program in Venezuela. He started this program with 11 kids over 30 years ago which continues to grow and expand and transform the lives of youth. It was simply eye opening to think how many lives were positively affected by his work. I could only imagine how life changing and far reaching this program has been to the thousands of kids who have participated.

Well, admittedly we are no comparison to El Sistema in terms of the scale and history. And maybe what I have always wanted to start will never become as far reaching as El Sistema. Nevertheless, watching his talk helped to confirm my idea that we can teach something through teaching photography��������� self-esteem, discipline, and creativity. We can start it right here in Old Kensington right now.

We can always put off a project blaming it on a lack of time or resources. But, life is short, and you cannot wait around until the timing is perfect, if that ever comes at all.

Luckily, Project Basho has attracted many dedicated volunteers who run many aspects of the studio. Also, we have developed core constituents who believe in what we do. With their initiative and help, I know we can run a program like this. I sent out an email to those who are involved at Project Basho and sure enough, we soon had about 10 volunteers interested and on board.

This is how our photography outreach program in Old Kensington has begun.