Monday, October 11, 2010

Midtown Through Our Eyes: Journeys In Journalism.

[Normally, Journalism is not the province of Art Taco, but in this case, I'm making an exception. The Journeys in Journalism Program summer camp in Midtown is doing something extraordinary.]

Midtown is a 5 and-a-half square-mile area. Forgotten by the city for years, it languished with minimal services of the kind that other St. Petersburg neighborhoods fully enjoyed. Mayor Baker decided to bring change and there has been some and development in the area in the last five years. There were many snags, such as when the USPS refused to locate a Post Office in MidTown. They relented a year and a half later. New businesses, development and even an art gallery, Station Number Three, are now part of the scene in Midtown.

The Journeys in Journalism Program summer camp in Midtown brought together 44 students from three schools, Melrose Elementary, John Hopkins Middle School, and Lakewood High Schools. The camp runs for about three weeks at each school. The students learn photography, writing, and basic journalistic skills, and it's not just theory, but hands-on practice, and lots of it. The result is the professional-caliber Midtown Magazine, a traveling exhibit of over 100 photographs, and poetry the Journalists have written. Studio @ 620 last Thursday is where I saw their exhibit and poetry reading.

I go to a lot of poetry readings, but this one was different. There were beautiful, brilliant happy poems from these youthful poets, and some about things no child should have to experience anywhere, things that happen every day throughout the world, sometimes in faraway places, and sometimes nearby. No matter how heart-breaking some of them were, these kids have admirable strength and instill in us hope for a better future. Bravo.

There's way too many photographs to review here, but a few that linger in my mind are: "Tender Kiss", by Maria Coletti. A mother and three children sitting on the porch of a house. The Mom leans over to kiss her baby girl and she leans towards her, being held by a slightly older brother. Leaning against the wall of the house are recently-used fishing rods, and on the other side of the porch a small barbecue. Three colorful poolside photographs by Paris Williams, two of Andrew Hodges, one diving, and the other swimming, and one of Zauria Mixon and Jordan Herring are as much about art as they are about reportage.

Remember the struggle of this community for a Post Office?  Cyle Watts' pictures of mailman Herman Edwards as a towering figure, photographed from a low point-of-view and a close-up narrative portrait of this mailman's face embed this into the record of Midtown. A man who says "This job is perfect for me".

Journalism does much more than that which it does best: report life. It is also current local history, being laid down, a record of a time, place, and people. In this case, by those living it, telling their story as no one else can. Congratulations to Journeys in Journalism, for the excellent training, alighting on imaginations and hearts, with positive consequences reaching far into the future.

The show is traveling around town, will be at Kahwah Cafe the 2nd week of December.

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