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Young photographers transform abandoned homes in Detroit

RALPH JONES PHOTOS

Twenty-one 6th-8th grade students spent the summer taking pictures as a part of Focus: HOPE’s summer Excel Photography Program. Sponsored by The Peck Foundation, Jenny Risher Photography and Detroit Institute of Arts, the photography program paired the students with adult mentors on a weekly basis throughout the summer and encouraged them to engage with each other and the community. When meeting with community members, the youth selected the themes of hope, unity, pride and youth to guide their image explorations.

After months of developing their craft, the students were each encouraged to pick the best shot they had taken. Then, the chosen photos were enlarged, printed on “heavy duty vinyl” and hung over 10 abandoned houses on LaSalle street in close proximity to HOPE Village.

Focus: HOPE’s Community Arts Manager Annette Vanover also learned from the kids: “As always, I and their photo mentors are amazed at what the young people see that we don’t. They have great eyes for detail and seeing hope beyond the present state of affairs in the neighborhood.”

She believes though the photography program “most students were given the opportunity to see how they can be instrumental in helping to transform their neighborhood — whether a big or small project.” In a televised interview, young photographer Cierra Murphy mused that while the municipal government slowly works on improving city lighting, community members can use art to brighten up the neighborhood and “make people feel better.”

“I also believe that having the youth participate in the community forums … helped them to realize that their voice is important to the community and that they too can make positive change, hand in hand with adults,” Vanover said.

Given the durability of the vinyl, the photos should be observable through fall and hopefully longer, Vanover told the Michigan Citizen.

— Staff report

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