I teach a middle school photo class once a week in a public New York City middle school, and I’ve been photographing there and at similar schools. The schools speak with the same visual vocabulary but time and students personalize the walls. Assimilation, teenage rebellion: institutional architecture, teenage dismay – and hearts.
And these are some of my student photographers.
I taught an after-school photography class to some New York City middle school students last year. I’ve been teaching classes in under-served schools like this on-and-off for a decade, and last year I started shooting with a phone camera. As I looked at what I’d seen, I realized I was photographing school archetypes and the way they illustrate containment and control of desires: the core of the middle school experience, and a cornerstone of education in general. More coming this school year…
I’ve been an arts educator for ten years. But back in 2008, I wanted to give up.
I was teaching arts integration in a first-year teacher’s sixth grade English Language Arts Class. I’d work with her to figure out how photography could give students multiple ways to access academic material, and together we’d help students develop visual literacy and artistic thinking.
But we’d also lose it, in ways that I thought I never would. Once I had to step out of the classroom because I’d yelled in a way that made me immediately sorry and embarrassed. The combination of a challenging age group, an intense mix of personalities, and a struggling school led to endless frustration, even though the kids were great on their own. It seemed like the group came together like Voltron and transformed thoughtful, kind individuals into a furious, resistant mass.
I wanted to make more time to photograph, but after each day of teaching my mind would be buzzing and almost erased. So I took my camera to school, and used it to look at the frustration and intensity I saw.
We made it through the year, and I photograph much more now. The teacher is going strong: her combination of talent, dedication, and commitment to practicing the mechanics of good teaching have made her one of the best educators I’ve worked with.
My photographs of intercultural midwifery were recently published on the Daily Beast. It’s very exciting to have this work seen by a wider audience!
I’ve been blogging for Every Mother Counts this month – they’re a great organization dedicated to education and advocacy for global maternal health. Here’s a link to the first post. I’m so pleased to be involved with EMC in their important work.
After their presentations at the Universidad Intercultural Maya, the midwifery students went to study in Mayan villages. Ema, Angie, Carmen Susana, Abi, Lupita and Elisa stayed with traditional midwife Doña Elsa in the small town of Chunhuhub. These students range in age from 17 to 36, and come from varied backgrounds: a performance artist, a small-town high school graduate, a nurse, an artisan who spent years traveling through Latin America.
Doña Elsa practices several kinds of alternative medicine, including herbal baths, ceremonies, chiropractic adjustments, and emotional and spiritual counseling, as well as referring patients to the local health center at times. The students stayed in her medical facility, watching her attend patients with fevers, depression and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, they offered prenatal visits at the health center, gave talks on contraception, and showed traditional midwives how to use analog thermometers, plastic umbilical cord clamps, and other equipment in a kit provided by the school.
Next post: traditional Mayan abdominal massage.
Here are some photos from my most recent trip for my Birth and Culture project.
In this first post, students from CASA, Mexico’s only government-accredited midwifery training program, prepared for a trip to rural villages where they studied with Mayan traditional midwives. At their school in San Miguel de Allende, they practiced giving presentations on women’s health and responding to birth emergencies. And in CASA’s hospital, a local traditional midwife delivered a woman’s fifth baby.
Next post: the journey.
The National Education Writers Association awarded City Limits’ “Hope or Hype in Harlem?” second prize in the small market investigative category.
I took most of the photos in the magazine, which gave me an opportunity to take photographs and talk to teenagers, two things I love to do.
Here are some photographs I took for a series of City Limits articles about the Harlem Children’s Zone. From City Limits:
Founded by a committed advocate for low-income children, nurtured by the politically powerful and Wall Street titans, and lauded by media around the world, the Harlem Children’s Zone has raised a nation’s hopes. The Obama administration wants to use it as the model for a nationwide antipoverty plan. But what is really known about the success of the Zone? Is there enough evidence to base a larger initiative around it? Are other cities capable of developing their own versions of the Harlem Miracle? In the new City Limits, read an in-depth evaluation of the program that’s inspiring the federal government’s most innovative poverty-fighting initiative in decades.