We fall in love with the world all over again when we see it through the eyes of a child. One cannot help but to revel in the humanity connecting us all when witnessing their unbridled wonder, unfiltered inquisitiveness, or genuine curiosity.
Photographers around the world are taking action to ensure that these stories, the authentic stories of children, are captured by challenging the traditional ‘photographer photographs underprivileged subject,’ narrative. Project by project, they are empowering children to capture, frame, and transmit their own stories by giving them the opportunity to document the world as they see it. These projects shine a light on the reality of our world’s impoverished children, unfiltered and unfettered by the views and biases of adulthood, foreign photographers, or aid workers.
Photographer Raul Guerrero wanted to transcend the role of traditional observer. In 2011, he journeyed to the Newlands area of Moshi, Tanzania and collaborated with Born to Learn, a Microsoft initiative, to create The Disposable Project. This project provided 100 disposable cameras to nine local children. After teaching them basic photography skills, Guerrero encouraged the nine young photographers to share their stories by documenting everyday life. The results are stunning, raw windows into their realities. After hosting an exhibition, the children distributed copies of their photos to the subjects they photographed, making this experience a shared one by the community.
In a similar spirit, UNICEF and Zakira (‘Memory in Arabic’), a Lebanese non profit organization, jointly launched The Lahaza 2 project (‘Glimpse’). They distributed 500 disposable cameras to Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon. The resulting images are honest, objective, and spontaneous – free from the politically charged sentiment that typically surrounds the refugee crisis.
This movement also has power to transform lives locally. The University of Virginia’s Fralin Museum of Art leads a community art education program that pairs low-income children from the Boys and Girls Club in Charlottesville, Virginia, with university students. The children could choose to participate in activities ranging from hip-hop dance to architectural drawings, but the children’s favorite activity was photography with disposable cameras. After a session of taking photos with their buddies, the children took the cameras home to take pictures of their families and homes, with idea of capturing places and identities. The children felt a sense of pride in documenting their lives and were excited to share.
These projects tap into both a child’s need to create and their unique ability to capture truths. They also explore the entire photography process, the relationship between the subject and the photographer, and muddle the line between objective and subjective. And the results? Amazing, artistic, and honest pictures.
Written by: Mary Donovan