Photo Ethnography Project (PEP).
The community project I developed involved engaging small groups of teenagers to gain a perspective of how their group and individual identities are affected by the education they receive in school and beyond the walls. The project involves getting the children to express themselves and explore their culture(s) through writing assignments, the visual art of photography, and arts & crafts. I will implement this program through two under resourced, community schools in the area that do not have the funding for the arts. This will be a voluntary project for students that are interested and through the project the students will be able to express themselves and think about their world more critically.
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The project will be carried out in several stages. The first of which will be a getting to know you activity. The youth will be expected to keep journals, which the project will provide. Through the journals students will collect images, things from nature, drawings, and words which represent various themes we will be discussing in the meetings. The themes will revolve around words that they might hear around their homes and neighborhoods, on the radio, television, or in class and school; people or things that make them happy to be who they are; people or things that make them fearful; things that represent their culture; and things that they consider to be education. Through these exercises the youth will explore their environments and critically analyze themselves and the world around them. Discussions will revolve around what each volunteer shares. Each individual will be expected to share at least once per session during the ascribed meeting times to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to express themselves. After the participants have developed confidence and an eye to critically examine their communities, families, and environments they will be given digital cameras (which will be donated to the schools or community centers at the end of the project) to take pictures based on the idea that their pictures will show the beauty, pain, celebrations, and challenges of being members of their communities and culture.
After taking the photographs participating youth will be asked to critique one another, learn how to give constructive advice on how to improve and how to compliment and recognize a personís talent and effort. Through this process each individual will have an unspecified as of yet number of photographs that will be used in a gallery-like exhibit within the community. The showing of the work will be the final stage of the venture, however, to prepare for the showing the children will be asked to promote the show through flyers and word of mouth. Likewise the youth will be instrumental in helping arrange and curate the exhibition.
Throughout the project I will be in contact with the families of the participants, when accessible. Prior to any activities with the youth I will ensure that each parent or guardian is aware of the project and gives their child permission to participate, where the child is under 18 years of age. When possible I will encourage the involvement of the elder community members to participate in the talks. I will make a concerted effort to foster parental interest in their childrenís work, since many schools suffer a lack of community involvement especially at the higher levels.
This project was carried out as part of my dissertation research in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in three separate communities and on Tuscarora reservation in New York. The end product of this project will be book that will be used to fund raise for future art projects within the participating schools.
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