LIFE Art- Live, Inspire: Freedom of Expression
by Ashlie Moore

Directions to the Hannon Library

DATE & TIME: March 2012

PLACE: Hannon Library Retzlaff Gallery, 3rd Floor

LIFE Art- Live, Inspire: Freedom of Expression is a program designed to give Image of Slow Signteens a creative outlet for expression and an alternative to gangs, substance abuse, depression and even suicide. This program is about putting cameras in the hands of young people in the community and letting them photograph what is most important to them. By doing so it is empowering these young people and giving them a sense of accomplishment.

Located in Medford, Oregon, LIFE Art started out as a small group of two or three and has now reached a maximum of fifteen students ranging from 14-18 years of age. After finding Christopher and his cousin tagging a wall as a memorial to their uncle who committed suicide in 2009, Phil Ortega wanted to find a way for them to express themselves in an appropriate way; and from this, LIFE Art began. The group is now funded by the state of Oregon for suicide prevention. Each student becomes involved by applying to the program and is selected based upon their level of need. The students choose which medium they want to use: graffiti, poetry, painting or photography.

As a mentor for this group I’m choosing to teach black and white film photography and have organized an exhibition of my students’ work. By bringing them into the darkroom to work hands on, they are given the opportunity to develop a sense of community; accomplishment and they are being exposed to a higher education setting. The goal of this project is to provide these students with hands on experience using film cameras and going through the process of developing, printing in the darkroom and matting photographs for installation. Each student is using a 35 mm Juice Box camera to photograph. The cameras are unpredictable and easy to use. Using these “toy” cameras might parallel the students’ teenage years – wanting, but not having, control.

Providing this opportunity for young people allows them to express themselves. as well as giving them a reason to walk away with a feeling of triumph.

Several of the students have used digital cameras before, however this is their first time using film and working in a dark room. They were prompted to investigate their life by exploring what they value through the lens of a camera. Each student will choose which of their photographs they want to hang in the exhibition based upon which ones hold more meaning for them.

The exhibition will consist of work by Karla Lopez, Christopher Pimentel, Laura Perez and Deysi Cabrera, all ages 16-18.