What do you get when 65 high school students consider social issues through the camera’s lens? Pictures of abandoned homes, litter, and poverty are just some of the topics teens explore during a program aimed at
fostering social awareness by viewing art and writing as agents of change. The exhibit, “Face the Lens: Art for Social Change,” opened at the Brooks Museum January 22nd, and features a collection of the teens photographs and essays that comment on social problems in Memphis.
“I felt the project was a great way for my humanities students to let others know about their neighborhoods in north Memphis and the problems they experience on a daily basis,” says James Moseley, a teacher at Craigmont High School.
In preparation for the project, teens from Ridgeway and Craigmont High Schools viewed the work of Depression-era photographers commissioned by the Farm Security Administration to promote President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Many of their pictures showed the plight of the nation’s poor, making a case for Roosevelt’s social welfare programs. With disposable cameras in hand, the teens then documented and wrote about life in their own neighborhoods.
“Teenagers are at a point in their lives where they are starting to develop greater awareness outside of themselves,” commented Karleen Gardner, curator of education at the Brooks. “This project encourages them to become activists — to notice the community around them and think about how they can make an impact.” The show runs through March 27th at the Brooks.