Photography: Capturing teens in a new light

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this photo as approximately 18X24 in the teen space at your library.The photo is framed and hanging on a wall. Okay, you can open your eyes now. It’s a bit hard to describe because the size influences the effect it can have and posting it on a blog doesn’t necessarily do it justice. If I had to describe it in one word, I might choose the word ‘radiant’. As librarians, we’re constantly existing in worlds that might not seem all that real to others, so I’m confident that you’re quite on board with this and we’ll keep moving on.

We frequently have groups-everyone from public schools, homeschoolers, charter schools, summer camps (in the summer!), etc. visit a space in my library called Studio i. There are also individual teens that come and use the space. What they primarily do is make music by coming up with a beat using Garageband, write and record their lyrics in the sound booth (which is what this is a photo of) or make videos with various software available. They’ve been doing this since 2005.

Many people have their own perceptions about teens. Photos of teens that use the library space can be one way that might help convey a message about a teen. I chose this photo because it’s one that makes me take a second look. It tells a story that isn’t necessarily one that’s shared by the majority of people (including teens) that aren’t familiar with the depth and breadth of how the sound booth is used. Hopefully it invites other teens who can picture themselves stepping up to the microphone to try out their skills.

Your library might have very strict policies regarding photography and video in order to protect your patrons. While it can seem frustrating and a huge road block at times, it can also serve a purpose. To get this photo, we got permission from the teacher to obtain this since our goal was to put it in a frame. While we have a rather generous photo/video policy at my library, we wanted to cover our bases. We invited an employee of my library who is also a photographer, to take photos. And snap away she did. The teens felt comfortable focusing on their work, as the photographer helped reveal them in amazing ways. I anticipate these photos will be far reaching and in ways that will have the effect of forcing people to automatically take that second glance. “I never looked at a teen this way before.” “I always thought that teens. . . but now I realize. . . .” Those are some of the things viewers might think. Displaying photos can also help inject a sense of new life to a space that might feel tattered and worn out. What a great (and cheap!) way to renew your space for the new year!

How powerful a photograph can be.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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