“The camera gave me an incredible freedom. It gave me the ability to parade through the world and look at people and things very, very closely.”-Quote from Carrie Ann Weems, Famed Artist, and Photographer
The Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) at NYU Metro Center is a comprehensive college and career preparation, and drop-out prevention program. NYU Metro Center’s LPP serves 360 students attending NYC public high schools, providing an array of holistic and dynamic services to meet the needs of the whole student. LPP has been working with students at NYC’s Landmark High School for a total of six years. For the last two years, Landmark students have had the opportunity to take digital photography classes offered by this Liberty Partnerships Program.
Yolanda Fordham, Director of the Liberty Partnerships Program at NYU Metro Center, believed offering the Digital Photography course to young adults would provide high school students with an opportunity to “become engaged in a hands-on elective course as active participants”. Mr. Alon Andrews, NYU LPP staff member agreed and stated “...more conscious, aware of, observant of their surroundings, and generally more visually curious about their environment.” Aside from the development benefits of using photography to further augment the creativity and problem-solving abilities of Landmark High School’s students, Ms. Fordham, herself a former classroom teacher, has also found practical applications for engagement with the teenage participants of the digital photography course. Photography is a captivating skill that requires discipline and purpose, therefore Andrews conceded that “... getting [teenage] students to see the value added [from photography] to them and their lives …” can initially be challenging. The digital camera, with all its options, switches, and settings, can be a tad bit abstract for the high schoolers to consider photography as a method or tool of inquiry. Yolanda Fordham shares “they’re so used to ‘photography’ being [as uncomplicated] as Instagram - like something they’d get positive feedback and praise for. [With the Liberty Partnerships Program at NYU Metro Center, we] like to present photography as a tool for discovery.”
Instructors with the Liberty Partnerships Program are meticulous in sharing the elements of photography with the high school class. Students are taught to experiment with their digital cameras, learning how to employ composition, intention, light, story, message, emotion, and identity to their photos. LPP’s instructional technique involves having the Landmark students engage in prompt-based photographic assignments. Digital Photography Instructor, Alon Andrews would direct students to take photos using extreme light, to capture images that convey emotion, or offer a narrative based prompt “... to get students to think about [and consider] the versatility of the medium.” The Liberty Partnerships team also shared a variety of artistic images with Landmark students, so that they would have an awareness of varying photography styles, techniques, and methods.
Each of the Landmark High School students who participated in NYU’s Liberty Partnerships Program photography course were tasked with submitting five high quality images that they felt most strongly about. Andrews shared that the purpose of this assignment was to bestow the high school students with a moment to understand what it is they like and observe in their real time environment and realize what their preferences truly are. In an effort to honor and legitimize the work of each of the digital photography class students, NYU LPP Director, Yolanda Fordham, thought of arranging a gallery-like exhibition for them, with “... the hope that [the high school students] begin to appreciate their own sensibilities.”
The Liberty Partnerships Program team successfully organized a public photo exhibition at NYU’s Kimball Hall Lounge. Furnishing the Landmark students with a public-facing show to display their art greatly affirmed the year-long efforts of the high schoolers. Being able to “... take the work outside of the school environment that [students] are so [accustomed to], can make [their art display] feel [that much] more real, [and] more official …” said Yolanda Fordham, Director, Liberty Partnerships Program at NYU Metro Center. This photo exhibition not only affirmed students, but also inspired them as well. Digital Photography Instructor, Alon Andrews, shares the story of one student in particular, who was so inspired by seeing her work shown in the exhibit that she wants to become a photographer. Andrews recognized that this student observed “... an interesting connection between the process of taking [pictures] and her own processing of who she is, and who she wants to be.”
We would like to congratulate all the Landmark High School students who shared their artwork in the Liberty Partnerships Program Photo Exhibition at NYU’s Kimball Hall Lounge. We would also like to thank the educators and adults who encouraged these student artists throughout the creative process.