Literacy Through Photography projects are designed to empower students to think creatively and to surround students with a safe environment in which to do so. As an LTP intern The School for Creative Studies I worked with 6th graders who designed sample ads for businesses they imagined founding. Here, Eli’s sample ad for singing lessons embodies the process of opening up to the creative possibilities at hand and conquering vulnerabilities.
As a group of us walked around the school snapping pictures and taking care of their projects, Eli tacitly figured out what she wanted. Once we made it outside, I saw the wheels turning in her mind and she began to piece together her vision for her photograph. Sensing that she was starting to panic in the presence of a few boys on the field, I asked her what she would feel comfortable doing; she said actually wanted to sing out loud, just not in front of her classmates. Just as her vulnerability manifest itself little by little, Eli slowly opened up as we talked about what singing means to her. In the middle of the field, once the boys were sent back to the classroom, we talked about her song choice from Frozen and I was able to coax her out of her shell enough to sing in front of me (after thoroughly embarrassing myself by demonstrating my lack of singing talent). Eli’s mouth opened up and melodies poured out as I adjusted the camera for the framing she had requested. As soon as the camera clicked, her cheeks flushed and the greatest grin stretched across her face; in that moment, she was proud, as she should have been. LTP allowed the two of us to connect in spite of insecurities and urged both of us to be comfortable in our own skins.
The picture we achieved is not particularly telling of such a struggle, but I think the best part of the process is that the final product doesn’t have to reflect the same meaning or story to everyone. These pictures succeed in relatability because they invite all viewers to apply their own interpretation and personal experience to the image at hand. Eli put so much of herself into every detail of her final piece, from her clear love of the color purple to her preference for natural simplicity. Placing her writing portion in a hand-made microphone was a creative way to incorporate her theme in an understated manner. Knowing this what a labor of love this task was to Eli, it was really gratifying to witness her work. Allowing Eli the opportunity to create something so intimate, this LTP activity encouraged her to open up and truly apply herself to the final project.