Parkrose High picture-perfect photo program funded by neighborhood grant

See what happens when pro photographers and community members get behind a project that allows young people to explore the art and science of photography‚

Parkrose High School freshman Elena Curtin shows us one of the photos she created, while taking the extracurricular, after-school course.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It started as project to involve students and community members in nontraditional learning process last fall.

But, the after-school photography class produced a full-fledged photo-art show this spring at Parkrose High School (PHS). Then, many of the prints went “on tour”, showcasing the students’ works around outer East Portland.

Neighborhood grant seeds program
“The Parkrose SUN School coordinator and a professional photographer met with me last fall,” explained Parkrose High program coordinator, Joanne Oleksiak, with Community Connections, OSSC/AmeriCorps.

“We worked to develop an idea that Trevor Todd, the Parkrose SUN School coordinator, and I had‚ namely, to offer an opportunity for PHS students to have a hands-on experience of learning the history, science, profession and art of photography,” Oleksiak elaborated.

Together with a professional photographer, Patrick F. Smith‚ a PHS parent and volunteer‚ the trio utilized an East Portland Neighborhood Office grant of $650 as seed money. “We leveraged those funds with generous in-kind and volunteer contributions,” added Oleksiak.

Photography 101
Smith, a City of Maywood Park based commercial photographer specializing in still-life images, provided a detailed course syllabus and handouts.

“Perhaps more important than showing the students the cameras I use and explaining technical information, was my emphasis on pre-visualizing images,” Smith told us. “To make a great photograph, the photographer must first ‘see’ the image in their mind.”

Smith said he was surprised at the young students’ ability to quickly learn how to develop good photographic visualization. “Many students demonstrated a very keen visual perspective. It was eye-opening!”

Students gain practical experience
Oleksiak told us the five-week course provided a rich learning experience for 16 budding shutterbugs. In addition to interactive classes, the students also met and saw slide presentations by two photojournalists, went on a downtown Portland photo expedition, and visited field trip to Newspace Center for Photography.

“Our series of classes was also supported by Jeffrey Simon, another PHS parent and skilled photographer,” Oleksiak added.

Parkrose through young eyes
The course leaders didn’t give specific assignments, but instead, told the kids to illustrate “their” Parkrose, letting others see their community through their eyes.

The resulting photos showed that this group of students placed a high value on relationships with their families and friends, and even their faith.

PHS freshman, Elena Curtin, created some visually stunning images‚ including the photo used on their photo show’s promotional post card. “I love flowers and still-life photos,” she told us. “It’s a fun hobby.”

She told us her idea of a good image is one with contrasts and colors. “I’m into colors.”

Abria Mitchell shows off her work.

“I like different scenes,” said freshman Abria Mitchell. “I like to capture movement in a scene. I like taking pictures. It makes me happy.”

A good photograph, to Mitchell, she said, has different things going on in the foreground and background. Holding up one of her images, she commented, “I just looked at the sky and thought this would be a good picture. Some say it is a good painting, but it is a photograph.”

Standing by her series of photos is Shante Livingston.

Shante Livingston, a sophomore, said she was pleased the community came by to admire her photographs. “I’ve just started in photography. I like taking pictures; I especially like to photograph flowers. I like their color and the texture.”

Argay neighbors Valerie Curry and Calla Marshall take in the photo art show. “I’m really impressed with the photos. I’m seeing some real talent here.”

PHS Principal Roy Reynolds moved slowly from exhibit to exhibit. “The photos are marvelous,” he commented. “This is pretty incredible.”

Reynolds said this class is a good example of how the school and community can work together successfully. “We’re working to create many events‚ of all sizes‚ that help involve students in the school and our community.”

And, Smith is already looking forward to the next school year. “I hope we can work it out so we can expose more young people to classes like this in the future.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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