Youth Turn a Lens on the World
A project of What Kids Can Do and Adobe Youth Voices
Edited by Barbara Cervone, Ed.D.
September 2010 — Paperback —76 pages, color photographs —ISBN: 978-0-9815595-2-0— $12.95 (USD)
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Written in Chinese or Japanese, the word “crisis” consists of two characters: one representing crisis or danger, the other representing hope or opportunity. Like yin and yang, it depicts seemingly contrary forces as interconnected and interdependent, each continually giving rise to the other.
Crisis and hope, yin and yang became our touchstones in April 2009, when Adobe Youth Voices, a global youth media initiative, and the nonprofit What Kids Can Do, Inc. launched an international photo competition. Then, as now, we faced a world engulfed by economic disaster, yet seeds of promise continued to yield new growth.
We invited youth worldwide to show us, through their own eyes, what troubles them and gives them hope in their close-by world—whether a deeply etched slum in East Africa or a well-off suburb in the northwestern United States.
Across four continents and sixteen countries, young people responded to our call by sending their photos and captions—crisp, light, dark. We heard from fledgling photographers working alone, but eager to find a public stage for their private vision. We heard from groups of youth encouraged by photography teachers in school or community classes.
This book gathers these extraordinarily diverse images and artist statements into a compelling whole. It has five sections:
Yin and Yang presents photo pairs, intended by the young photographers to work off one another. In “Streets of Saigon,” seventeen-year-old Katherine Goudsouzian points her camera through a dark tangle of telephone wires and onto the chaotic traffic below in Vietnam’s largest city. “The atmosphere was breathtaking,” she writes, ”but looking past all of this you see the poverty on the streets, the beggars in the gutter.” In “Two for a Dollar,” Goudsouzian captures the bright face of a young girl selling flutes outside an ancient temple in Cambodia, after a morning in school. “Two for a dollar, miss, wooden flutes, two for a dollar,” the girl says.
Worth A Thousand Words features single photos that capture either crisis or hope – or both at once. In “Hut Burning,” sixteen-year-old Kyle Weiss from Danville, California (USA) catches the expressions of children fleeing a fire in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda. He and classmates were there to build a soccer field for the children. “As we got closer,” Weiss writes, “the smoke got thicker. We saw a hut on fire, engulfed in flames. Yet the village was calm. We listened for the sirens we hoped were close by, but there weren’t any. We remembered we were in Uganda, not the U.S. No fire truck. No water. We stood and watched the hut burn.”
Juxtapositions offers a collection of photo collages submitted by students at Heritage High School in Vancouver, Washington (USA). The young artists have given them titles like “Dear John,” “Poor Little Boy,” “Death and Dance,” “Hands of Truth.”
A Hard Look presents images gathered by teenagers at the Manana Youth Center in Yerevan, Armenia. In a photo simply called “Box,” fourteen-year-old Kristine Sargsyan shows the cramped living conditions in her city, the largest in Armenia and one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. “This small box is the habitat of the Grigoryan family,” she writes. “Seven other families live on the same stage, and there is only one bathroom for all of them. Thirteen-year-old Narek dreams of his own bathroom.”
For Street Photography, Latino middle school students took cameras into their neighborhoods in Austin, Texas and Los Angeles and Oakland, California. They were looking for images that captured, as one student put it, “the sweet and the sour.”
We hope that the images and words in this remarkable volume take your breath away – as they did ours. We hope they remind you of the vision and compassion that today’s youth bring to our 21st century world, caught between crisis and hope.