Kids’ Photography Opens Door

October 2008

The latest Redeemer Art Exhibition (July 1–August 8) opened doors for aspiring young artists, as well as many in our congregation who came to appreciate their work. The July 18th artist reception, hosted by Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work, celebrated the work of six Washington Heights teenagers enrolled in Operation Exodus, an afterschool program (and Hope for New York affiliate) developed to enrich the lives of inner-city kids. Through Operation Exodus, freelance photographer Alicia Hansen has created an exceptional arts program called NYCSalt
 
Through NYCSalt, Hansen supplied a digital camera and a computer to each teenage boy, giving him a new way to access the world. For the last three years, Hansen has gone beyond teaching the fundamentals of photography and Photoshop. She has introduced the boys to the range of jobs available in photography through initiating fieldtrips to Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg News, In the Heights Broadway Musical, Fuel Digital Retouching, and the Photo Expo at the Javits Center, as well as trips out into the city to photograph the community. She has introduced them to professional photographers and they have visited their studios. She has even seeded thoughts of college by traveling with them to an upstate university photography department. When the program first began, one of the boys aspired to be a tattoo artist after he finished high school. After visiting Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communication, he hasn’t stopped talking about how cool it would be to go to college. (Three of the boys received scholarships to attend a high school photography camp this past July sponsored by Syracuse’s Newhouse School.)
 
Besides utilizing the artistic treasures the city has to offer, Alicia Hansen has also facilitated a strong group dynamic. Watching the boys at the opening it was evident that affectionate bonds exist between them as they easily discussed one another’s photography work. It was exciting to hear the boys articulate how the program has given them access to new and foreign spheres of life. One teen proudly declared he now enjoys eating quesadillas! Another talked about how he has learned to approach people and have access to cool events because of the camera. Another said that he thought that taking a picture would be easy, just point and click, but he soon discovered that it’s really hard to take a good picture and you have to think about your f-stop and depth of filed, color, light, catching a moment, the compostion…. Even more significantly, the show resulted in sales of $1700 worth of photographs and donations. Commenting on the evening, Hansen said, “You can’t even imagine the change in self image that occurred when they realized that people were actually interesting in paying for the work they created. They were blown away!” 
 
NYCSalt is a great example of Christians using art to give others access to more of life. Frank Burch Brown similarly relates how, “Art allows one not only to think more but also to feel more, and that in both of these ways together manage to mean more, possibly even letting one be and become more.”1 As Christians it is part of our fundamental belief that community matters. Collaborative creativity, activated here by Alicia Hansen and NYCSalt, became a way God has allowed us to shape culture positively. 
 
Visit www.nycsalt.org to see the boys work.
 
“Firstfruits,” Redeemer’s next arts exhibition is showing Oct. 6 to Jan. 4 in the Redeemer Offices. Come to the opening party on Friday, October 10. (www.faithandwork.org/exhibition)
 
1Frank Burch Brown, Religious Aesthetics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 92.


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