Exposures works with groups and educators in partnering locations to offer Exchange programming designed to instigate meaningful, creative conversation among youth from distinct geographic and cultural regions. Through fall and spring classes in their home communities, youth in Exposures Exchange programs learn photography skills to document their experiences, cultures and communities, and collaborate with youth in other participating locations through an online gallery and forum in which they share and respond to one another’s creative works. Exchange programming is intended to generate continuous connections and ongoing creative dialogue between participating youth and communities. Exchanges also serve as an opportunity for participants to explore their interest in Exposures’ Summer programs, as youth who take part in the Exchanges may be eligible to apply for the Summer program.
Exposures Summer programs bring youth together for intensive arts and cultural programming in the context of a host community. The curriculum combines creative learning and practice with experiential activities, participation in community and cultural events, and trips to explore and photograph the landscape. Prior to the Summer program youth begin initial assignments which serve as a means of introducing themselves, their stories and their communities to one another. Participants then come together in the program host community where they generate a rich inter-cultural dialogue as travelers and local youth work together to learn artistic techniques, create collaborative projects and share and develop their perspectives of place, community and culture.
Projects incorporate photography and other arts, which have included audio and multimedia, interviewing, creative writing, collage, book making, and mask making. Primary projects are designed as collaborative endeavors in Exposures’ host communities. Participants are introduced to a variety of photographic techniques such as making portraits, composing landscapes, documenting events to develop photo-stories, and printing photographs onto cloth for the creation of photographic quilts. Staff, regional hosts and guest artists complement these techniques as they facilitate artistic and cultural workshops linked to daily project fieldwork specific to the local community, culture and landscape.
In past programs, participants have learned to create black and white images using large format view cameras and Polaroid 55 film, which produces both a print and a negative. Groups set up portable studios and worked together to develop a portrait of the community as they visited local meeting grounds and attended events where they met and offered free portraits to local individuals, families and friends. Subjects received prints at the time and participants later learned to use the negatives to create photographic prints on cloth. Quilt makers sew these and other images, as well as participants’ writings and designs, into quilts which offer a glimpse of the host community and the experience of the Exposures group.
Through this curriculum youth develop collaborative artistic projects based in their engagement with the place, community and culture of the host community. At the close of the program, participants host a community event where they present their creative achievements, and select works to be included in online and traveling exhibits that bring their works to wider audiences throughout the year.
Exhibits have been held on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota at Little Wound School, Billy Mills Hall, Big Bat’s Convenience Store, and Youth Opportunity Movement; in Vermont at Hooker Dunham Gallery, River Garden, In-Sight Photography Project, Vermont Arts Council, and Amy’s Bakery Arts Café; in New York at Calumet Photographic, the International Center for Photography at The Point and Arts for Peace; and at Video Machete and Street-Level Youth Media in Chicago, Illinois.
“I learned so much about photography, people, culture, history, humanity, and so much about myself… I learned and taught something everyday I was away from home.”
– Exposures participant from New York City