By Liz Dang
On Saturday, October 5, a team of Wex staff and volunteers (including superstar Americorps volunteer and Linden-area fixture Tress Augustine) arrived at New Harvest Café & Urban Arts Space in Linden for a Wex Lab digital photography workshop, We met with eight teens, many of whom were from the Linden area. It really took no time at all to get the teens to warm up despite it being Saturday morning; already buzzing with energy, they were obviously a super-creative bunch.
The honored guest of Kwodwo Ababio (owner of New Harvest) and Jean Pitman (Educator for Youth Programs at the Wex) was Kojo Kamau, a Columbus native and renowned photographer. Kojo knows Columbus front and back, having grown up documenting this city and its changes his entire life. While he was giving a brief lesson on the basics of photography, he passed around examples of his signature silver gelatin prints which seemed to strike a chord with the teens. They were fascinated to see black and white photos—some from the 60s and 70s—of places and people they recognized. However, it was the images of places and eras long since passed in their own hometown that seemed to resonate the most.
After the lesson, the teens, now equipped with digital cameras, set out to roam the Linden area. They took experimental photos that attempted to tell the story of their neighborhood by focusing on eclectic and untraditional subjects: architecture, a fence, a discarded Dora the Explorer doll, themselves, lone plants, and tree hollows (just to name a few).
When they came back, they had the opportunity to sit with Kojo one-on-one and go over their work. As they were going through and selecting their five best photos, we were all impressed with the photographs they had taken—despite many of them not being avid photographers, you could see their distinct styles and the subject matter that resonated with them. (You can see their work for yourself over on our Flickr page.)
Then it was time to head to the Wexner for a tour of the exhibition Blues for Smoke (with a focus on the photographers in the show). It was their first time visiting the center, and the general consensus was that it was “awesome!” After the tour, we gathered in the Performance Space, where we had a party that exhibited a rolling slideshow of their work. Personally, as someone who is unfamiliar with the Linden area, it was rather an incredible experience to see a neighborhood through the lens of people who have grown up there. The teens especially had an eye for things that are commonly overlooked—and then gave them new meaning. It was amazing to see what they had produced given so little time.
All in all, it was a fun and productive Saturday spent exploring photography!
Liz Dang is a GAA in the Education Department and is a third-year graduate student at the Knowlton School of Architecture.