For more info about Project Lives, visit the book site.
BACKGROUND to PROJECT LIVES
For a generation, tabloids, television, and Hollywood have defined the public image of New Yorkers who live in the city's 334 housing projects. Focusing on crime, disrepair, and other ills that afflict these islands of red brick, such portrayals ironically have made it all too easy for government to reduce the support these projects have relied on since their birth some eighty years ago.
And so conditions worsen further yet, as the buildings try to soldier on past their useful life, at times crumbling around the 400,000+ tenants.
What if these New Yorkers had the tools and training to document their own lives? And the opportunity to share the result?
For more info about Second Chance Lives (working title),
visit the book site.
BACKGROUND to SECOND CHANCE LIVES
There are four million Americans on probation.
Enough to constitute the nation’s second largest city.
But who are these compatriots of ours? How do they see the world? What led them to this point in their lives?
The media tends to focus on those who had committed newsworthy offenses, celebrities taking their turn at community service, and others who fail their probation in some spectacular fashion. Film treatments are rare. Of the vast majority of probationers, who may have used drugs or written graffiti, next to nothing is known by the general public. And so it is not widely understood that probation can be an effective alternative to mass incarceration.
We equip and train program participants to document their own lives with self-captioned photographs. The core program involves a 12-week course in using photography to tell stories. Each weekly class lasts 1-2 hours and combines a lecture with a workshop. Each week a different facet of photography is covered (light and shadow, composition, objective vs. subjective truth, etc.) with lessons drawn from the masters of the art. Participants put the lesson into practice taking photos the week following and share the output at the next class. The classes also involve the art of captioning, while participants are encouraged to tell their life stories verbally. Participants join in the selection of the strongest images for exhibit and publication. By also training the agency trainer, we ensure that the sponsoring agency can continue to conduct the program on an ongoing basis thereafter. We then underlie the photos with a narrative amplifying the power of each photo and publish them in a book, which we then promote to a global audience, ensuring focus on the artists.
PROJECT LIVES PHOTOGRAPHS
"In 1889 Jacob Riis, a crusading journalist, focused on housing conditions in New York's immigrant community. He had never used a camera, but knew it was the exact tool that could make thousands take notice. His success is a landmark in photojournalism, by an immigrant and amateur photographer who had a worthy cause.
In Project Lives we see new photographers sharing the warmth of their homes and neighborhoods by way of a small camera. Their pictures come from the heart, not from aiming to make fine art, but wanting to show intimate family moments. Powerful pictures like these are best made from inside the family. They warm our senses and are a joy to see collected in such a thoughtful book."
-John T. Hill, photographer; author of Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye; former Director of Graduate Studies in Photography, Yale University
SECOND CHANCE LIVES PHOTOGRAPHS
An apprentice DJ spinning his discs, learning the tools of his new trade.
Three boys delighting in the street fair and in each other.
A pier stretching out into the evening water.
The photos taken by DOP clients and other residents of their communities and the probation process reveal a new world. Yet equally compelling are those resulting from photo shoots ranging from a ProAm tennis tournament in the Hamptons to music salons on the Upper West Side, and from Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to New York Fashion Week.
It was the latter experience that gave participants the confidence to document their own lives.