Editor’s note: The last names of the girls have been left off because they’re in foster care.
From Robert Capa’s chilling photograph of the Spanish War soldier at the moment of his death by gunfire, to the late great photojournalist Gordon Parks, who said that “photography can both depict and protest the things in society that we wish to change,” the camera has been used for decades to reflect ones individual take on the world around them.
This desire is not just exclusive to such world famous photographers as Parks and Capa.
Visitors to the Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake, discovered some young new artists this past Saturday when non-profit organization Brown Eyed Girls unveiled its “Terrific Picturific Exhibition.” The exhibit runs until April 30.
The exhibit is a photography project collected from 24 girls sharing their experience of being raised in foster care. The project is the culmination of a month-long project organized by Brown-Eyed Girl and Beyondmedia Education to allow the girls to express how their lives have been effected by the foster system.
“I had come up with the idea of engaging the girls in a creative arts project,” said Augusta Bryant, executive director of Brown-Eyed Girl, “and through the Chicago Girls Coalition we hooked up with Beyondmedia, and they taught a once-a-week course to the girls about photography and the importance of lighting and angling.
“The girls practiced for a few weeks with digital cameras, and then used their own cameras to photograph their world,” said Bryant.
The girls, who ranged in ages six to 14, were in complete control of the project itself. They took the pictures, chose the ones to display and even made a question-and-answer video to be played while patrons visit the exhibit to discuss what made them choose what to shoot.
“It really allowed them to feel that since of empowerment that is lost when they enter foster care,” said Bryant, a graduate of Hampton University, who helped organize one of first “Take Back The Night” rallies at the college concerning sexual abuse against women.
And in the words of Gordon Parks, the girls created a social critique through their subjects.
For example, 13-year-old Dylan chose to photograph her blue Barbie guitar-shaped suitcase, showing the lack of stability within the system, and reflecting the idea that at any moment a foster child can be stripped from a home.
Another photograph was that of 7-year-old Katorrie and a picture of her foster grandmother, seen lying back with her arms folded behind her head, and leering defiantly at the camera.
The picture looks natural and un-staged, as if it were taken while the grandmother was asking the girl to clean up their rooms. She seems ill but vigilant as if dedicated to her responsibility to her foster children. The grandmother actually passed away weeks after the picture was taken.
“I am a product of the foster care system myself so I can relate to the girls’ desire for acceptance,” said Toni Bryant, Augusta’s mother, and executive assistant of Brown-Eyed Girl. “I can understand their feelings of loneliness, and we want to show them that people do care. That’s what this exhibit is all about, letting them know that we care about their feelings within their community, and know their voices should not go unnoticed.”
Brown-Eyed Girl began in January 2006 after two years of planning, designed to respond to the special development needs of maturing young ladies currently in foster care. The organization has worked to create programs such as its “E5” Methodology, Education, Empowerment, Exposure, Engagement, and Evolution. The program focuses on reaching out to the many aspects of their progression into womanhood.
For more information about Brown-Eyed girl visit their website at www.browneyedgirlnfp.org. or call 1-866/319-3530.