I’m in the middle of a three session workshop on teaching photography skills to inmates at a local jail. The library is partnering with Silent Images, a local humanitarian photography organization. One of the stories David Johnson with S.I. told was that in a country he visited, a camera was more powerful than a gun. Why? Because a bullet only travels so far. A photograph can be shared infinite ways.

Using digital cameras donated by Target, the students learned such features about their cameras as how to let in more light, to think about horizontal vs. vertical, and how to create lines in a photograph. This week they used still life from the carpentry classes to take photos using framing, layering (noting what is behind the subject), and what setting the timer can do to the image. They talked about perspective and taking photos from somewhere other than eye level. The students then went to work and took their photos.

Giving anyone information about a different way of looking at something can be a powerful tool in itself. The students were asked to plan to think of the concept of heroism for next week. They were asked to identify a hero within the jail to photograph. The students will write a few sentences as to why they recognize this person as their hero and they will then be invited to be photographed. The hero can decline of course but the offer will be on the table.

When they upload their photos and share them with the rest of the class, it’s a great moment. One student shared that he almost forgot where he was at-because of taking photos and seeing things in a different perspective.

Powerful and empowering. Writing with light.

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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