GARY - Point, aim and shoot a photograph. These were the explicit
instructions given to 30 students from Gary armed with Kodak instamatics.
The children, in grades four through eight from area schools, were selected
to participate in the first Eyes of Gary photography workshop for four
Saturdays during July at Sister Thea Bowman Elementary School.
Eastman Kodak is financing the workshop. Each child received a 35mm camera
that they have learned to load and use. They also learned how to develop their
film in a makeshift darkroom set up in the girls' bathroom.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the students' work will be part of a
traveling exhibit at various locations throughout Gary. Selected photographs
will also be honored at an awards' night at city hall in August.
"I think photography is a good way to get children involved in an art
medium. It sustains their interest and it gives us a fresh view of what the
city is like through their eyes," said Renata Schneider, director of the Sister
Thea Bowman House, who is sponsoring the workshop.
The Sister Thea Bowman House is a community center that reaches out to its
surrounding areas through the arts.
Following the theme of the workshop, the children set out the first week to
"capture life" in their city as they see it.
"When we first started we were supposed to take pictures of our
neighborhood," said Ashley Powell, 11, a sixth-grader at Sister Thea Bowman
Elementary. "We took pictures of abandoned buildings and children playing. We
took pictures to show people how Gary is."
"Eyes of Gary is about opening eyes. We are opening their eyes to the power
and the joy of photography, and they are opening everyone's eyes to the way
they see Gary," said Karen Callaway, the instructor of the workshop. Callaway
received a grant from Kodak when she decided to hold the workshop. She said the
school would match funds raised for the event.
"I've seen the ability to make a change with photography," Callaway said.
"That's what I want these kids to accomplish. Having a real powerful picture
and someone coming up to them and saying 'I didn't know it was like this.'"
The children use their camera lenses to capture a different Gary that
extends beyond the reputation it has earned, Callaway said. They want the world
to see the good and bad of the place they grew up in.
"I tried to show what people were doing in their jobs and I tried to show
what the houses are like and how people are trying to fix them," said Jennifer
Richards, 11, a sixth-grader at Sister Thea Bowman. "But I also tried to show
what the violence is like and the gangs."
"They're very much aware of the ugly side," Schneider said. "They recognize
immediately when they see broken-down buildings and graffiti. But at the same
time, they are just as quick to notice a nicely planted flower pot in someone's
From kids playing basketball in school lots to a mother braiding her
daughter's hair on their front stoop, the students' photos depict the life they
"I wanted to show that Gary really is a nice place where you can barbecue
and have fun," said Byran Tavorn, 11, a sixth-grader at Chase Elementary who
wants to be a photographer when he grows up.
"Some people probably think it's bad with too much pollution and garbage,
but it's not all bad," Tavorn said.
The workshop is not only opening eyes up to Gary, it is also opening
students' eyes to the art of photography. They have learned to do their own
developing and can look at proof sheets to determine which photographs have the
"I like the darkroom the best," Richards said. "It's neat when you're just
standing there in the dark and a little light comes on and copies your pictures
onto a piece of plain paper. It's just like a copy machine."
The kids are also quickly learning that photography is not always that easy.
"They are getting that experience of getting film stuck, and the second week
I tried to convince them that they can't open the back of the camera and see
how the film looks. Some of these kids have never seen a camera before,"
By the end of the four-week session, however, these kids will leave with a
camera in hand and the ability to look at the world through another perspective.