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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Seattle: Youth in Focus

By Paul Butzi

A few years ago, I was strolling through the convention center in downtown Seattle, and I was dragged to a stop by a display of great photos of the daily life of kids who lived in inner-city Seattle. That show was done by kids as part of the Youth in Focus (YIF) program here in Seattle. Youth in Focus puts cameras into the hands of disadvantaged kids, teaches them how to use the camera and how to print, and then has the kids make photographs. As they put it, the kids “experience their world in new ways and make positive changes in their lives.”

YIF seems to be patterned after "Shooting Back," a program founded by Jim Hubbard to work with homeless kids. I could find two books about Shooting Back. There’s the original, and there’s Shooting Back from the Reservation, which is done by Native American kids. I know I’ve seen a video on PBS about the latter, too, although I can’t find a reference to it. Hubbard is now the executive director at Venice Arts, and there’s an online gallery of student work from that program.

Beyond the fact that these seem to be worthwhile organizations that deserve support from the photo community, what amazes me is how good the photographs the kids produce are. Youth in Focus do regular exhibits, and the ones I’ve gone to see have been amazing photography.

Hubbard started Shooting Back in 1989, so it seems likely that there are now similar programs in other cities. They can be frustratingly hard to find, though. If you know of one, perhaps you could post a comment and make it easier for folks to find and support this great idea.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI


Blogger Sean Reid said...

Enjoyed your post. If you'd like to look further into the history of this type of work, you might want to look at the projects done by Wendy Ewald that began in the late 1970s. I was her printer for several years. She began working with children as photographers on Native American reservations in the 70s and then published her first book of pictures by children living in the Appalachians. It was called "Portraits and Dreams" and was, to my knowledge, the first book of chidren's photography ever published. She followed with a series of books based on working with chidren in Colombia, India, and many other parts of the world. I extended the project into Ireland and worked with children as photographers in the western region of Connemara. That project was called "Griangraf Na Paisti" and it was exhibited first in Ireland and then in other parts of Europe. Wendy, last I heard, was teaching at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.


Sean Reid

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Wendy Ewald's work at the Addison Gallery at Phillips Andover several years ago. That show lives on as a traveling exhibition, currently at the Mint Museum in Charlotte. The Addison write-up is here, and the Mint Museum page with some pics is here.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

There's something similar here in Argentina. It's called ph15, you can see their photos here:

10:27 AM  
Blogger David said...

Don't forget Kids With Cameras - in fact viewing the movie Born Into Brothels is a wonderful way to spend an evening for anyone with a heart for this kind of social enterprise. You can find them at:

David duChemin

10:24 AM  

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