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AIM-SHOOT-EMPOWER: High-school students learn advocacy, life skills through photography

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2013
'Accompong Rhumba Box' by Ashley Stephens.
'Vantage Point' by Michka Walters.
'Duppy Church' by Omar Spence.
'Tools of Yesteryear' Kamille Kirlew.
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Amitabh Sharma, Contributor

These are stories captured in megapixels, streaming hues, freezing expressions - moments that are there to stay forever. Spearheaded by high-school students from rural Jamaica, photography is taking a different dimension - converging this art form with human-rights advocacy.

The Resolution Project advocacy initiative of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Foundation has been, since its inception in 2004, equipping and training students to acquire these proficiencies.

"The Resolution Project allows the
young people to voice their perspectives through the arts. They use the
art form to express themselves - how they see and experience their
specific communities," informed Alicia Glasgow, arts and media
specialist of the JNBS Foundation. "Students are exposed to arts,
culture and heritage in their environments and use photography to
promote this positive aspect of our society."

"I
wasn't fully aware of the potential (of photography)," quipped Ashley
Stephens, who got involved with the project in
2011.

Arming herself with a digital camera, she
started to capture images in and around her community of Mineral Heights
in May Pen, Clarendon.

Photography, the 17-year-old
lower sixth-form student of Glenmuir High said, gave her a different
dimension of creativity.

"It (photography) has given
me a medium to express myself," Stephens said. "Being a part of the
project has equipped me to speak with people one to one … . I can take a
photo of the people and showcase their challenges … and it might make
their lives better."

BEYOND
PHOTOGRAPHY

The Resolution Project, Glasgow said, goes
beyond photography. "In addition to the training and advocacy
component, the project seeks to boost students' confidence and
self-esteem as well as critical life skills including
communication."

Kamille Kirlew, winner of the Best
Photo in 2012 Competition and Best Youth Photograph in the JCDC National
Visual Arts Competition last year, has been taking photos since she was
six. "I used to borrow my father's camera, which used film rolls," she
said.

Kirlew says being a part of the Resolution
Project has given her the opportunity to realise and nurture her
creative acumen. "I wouldn't have thought photography as a medium to
express my artistic side. It is my artistic expression … and it is
relaxing," she said.

Kirlew and Stephens are among a
wide spectrum of youngsters who have benefited from this ongoing
project.

"There have been several memorable
experiences over the nine years of the programme," recounted Glasgow.
"The special Resolution Project at the Alpha Boys' School is one of the
most recent of such experiences.

"Watching the boys'
reaction to the training, being exposed to different places and things
for the first time, and their expression of gratitude, has left an
indelible mark," she said.

INCREASED
EXPOSURE

This project, Glasgow said, has increased
opportunities for exposure of the students' work through exhibitions,
local and international partnerships.

"A recent
partnership with Adobe Youth Voices will allow for greater exposure of
students' work in the international community," she
said.

As the paradigms of work evolve worldwide, and
the resources at hand for self-expression, publishing, and the advent of
citizen journalism, this creative medium can present a wide angle of
opportunities.

"Increased interest in photojournalism
and professional photography as career options are some of the
outcomes," informed Glasgow.

"Through camera clubs,
experience and exposure gained from participation in the programme, as
well as rewarding prizes, photography might become a sought-after
extracurricular activity within schools in rural Jamaica," she
added.

Kirlew, who is now pursuing a degree in nursing
at University of Technology, says going through the experiences and
learning during the course of the project has made her a different
person.

"I used to get irritated easily," Kirlew said.
"Photography has had a tranquil effect on me and I am more
patient."

Stephens, who has her eyes set on sports
medicine, wants to give back to the community and the project. "I want
to become a volunteer at JN Foundation, become a part and give back,"
she said. "I don't just want to focus on my career but also human
upliftment and sharing my skills."

"The best images
are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years,
regardless of the number of times they are viewed," said Anne Geddes,
Australian-born photographer, clothing designer and businesswoman known
for her stylised depiction of babies and
motherhood.

Her words summarise the strength and
impact that photography is having on the lives of the youth, who, armed
with their cameras, continue to click out stories and share them with
the
world.

amitabh.sharma@hotmail.com