Over 100 children and young adults, age 8-18 from inner city Philadelphia, who have parents struggling with addiction or are in prison, have been given the opportunity to learn photography to empower themselves and learn skills for the future.
Second year BA (hons) photography student Renee Osubu, studying at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, is the mastermind behind the project, which she is doing over the summer before returning for her final year at UAL, and was given a $10,000 award as part of the Davis Peace Project.
From July to September 2016, the ‘Capturing Miracles’ project in Camp Hope, just outside of the city, gives children and young adults a space in which to explore their talent in a supportive community.
With the aid of personal mentors for each child, 25-30 children and young adults will come to Camp Hope, near Philadelphia, each week to escape their daily lives and difficult situations to empower themselves through photography. They will use photography to keep a photographic/video journal to document their lives at home alongside their time at the camp and what it has taught them.
Renee Osubu said:
“Photography is an art form that with enough patience and technical skill can be taught to a child with passion. Photography has been a great medium for this project because we are able to see a different perspective of the same situation. Each week the kids get to watch a video that they took part in and photos they captured.”
One of the youngest boys is eight years old. Renee continued:
“We once had a conversation about him moving neighbourhood and him being really excited for the move. I asked him why and he said because he “always hears shootings in his area and people always get shot.” He came every week for five weeks straight this summer to camp. Every Friday he spent crying not wanting to leave camp and his mentor. And each Friday he would beg me to upload the video that we made together so he could watch back his week and relationships. When the summer ends all the kids have are their memories of it. His older sister told me he returns home crying all day and watching the videos back. He walked around with his disposable camera always capturing his favourite memories and people.”
The students take photos to document their summer and these will be put into gift boxes by their mentors, who provide advice and guidance, ready for Christmas. The US $10,000 will be used for equipment, gift boxes, ceremonies and costs relating to the administration of the project.
Learning photography at UAL’s London College of Communication and having previously worked on a project for women prisoners at risk of reoffending, Osubu wanted to take her mission of achieving social justice through photography to an international location.
Speaking about her experiences, Renee Osubu said:
“Ever since the age of 14, I was fascinated by photography. I went to UAL as one of the leading art and design schools to learn the craft. I had a work placement in a family portrait studios, London Zoo and other projects which showed me the power photography has to bring people together. Photography gave me a means of expression and a skill that has helped me to learn about myself. I wanted to share this skill with others less fortunate than me, to help them discover themselves and give them an escape from the difficulties they face.”
When the project finishes at the end of August, Renee Osubu will be writing up her findings and the research will inform the projects for peace.