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

Published: Sunday | May 5, 2013 Comments 0
'Accompong Rhumba Box' by Ashley Stephens.
'Accompong Rhumba Box' by Ashley Stephens.
'Vantage Point' by Michka Walters.
'Vantage Point' by Michka Walters.
'Duppy Church' by Omar Spence.
'Duppy Church' by Omar Spence.
'Tools of Yesteryear' Kamille Kirlew.
'Tools of Yesteryear' Kamille Kirlew.

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."


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.


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.

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