‘Writing with Light’ Photography Project Empowers Youth
American Indian students from across the Upper Peninsula will develop skills in photography and use the visual medium as a vehicle for storytelling and personal reflection through a project titled “Writing with Light: Waaseyaasibii’ige.”
The project begins this month with a series of hands-on workshops and will culminate in a celebratory exhibit at the U.P. Children’s Museum in late March. Students will learn how to use a camera, make contact prints, process 8-by-10 inch photographs and mat and frame their prints for exhibition. Each participant will contribute at least one image, along with a written narrative on cultural memory, to the public display.
April Lindala (Center for Native American Studies, pictured right) is the director of “Writing with Light.” She came up with the idea when she was involved in advance planning for the UNITED Conference held at NMU. One of the guest speakers was Jim Hubbard, a photojournalist who created Shooting Back, an organization dedicated to empowering children at risk through photography.
“When I heard that some of Jim’s work was on reservations, it sparked a light in my mind about the possibilities of doing something similar here,” Lindala said. “If you consider the region we’re in and the community outreach the center wants to do with the tribes and their youth – future NMU students – it seemed like a perfect ideal to model that program here in the U.P.”
To pull it off, Lindala needed a professional photographer willing to lead the workshops and share her technical expertise with young people. She found that and more in Christine Garceau of Marquette (pictured left). While pursuing a doctorate, Garceau had researched how people “image themselves,” which she said can be quite different from how the media represent them. The insight she gained is highly relevant to “Writing with Light.”
“This project will empower young Native Americans and allow them to take ownership of who they are,” Garceau added. “They can share images taken from their own perspective that reflect their personal, visual identities. They will also share their own voice through narratives that will bring deeper meaning to the photographs they select for the exhibit. It will be rewarding for them to see their work on display and to be able to say, ‘I did that.’”
“Writing with Light” is sponsored by a $3,000 grant from the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development (CUPPAD) Regional Commission. The project will involve about 50 students from the Baraga, Hannahville, Marquette and Watersmeet areas.