Budding photographers shoot the world


Program's lessons go beyond photography

Photo courtesy of Jean Lachat of the Chicago Sun-Times Two local students experiment with a new digital camera at the "Home of the Free" kick-off

When seventh-grade students from Daniel Webster Middle School took photographs, they discovered how much they can learn through the lens of a camera.

"It's so much fun because I get to take a look at the image and it is a whole new world for me," says Sandy Muñoz, 13, who would one day like to photograph nurses and schools.

The students, all members of teacher Mary Mlinar's multimedia and video class, recently photographed the Waukegan mayor and his secretary, a 911 dispatcher and a police department custodian as part of the "Home of the Free" photojournalism program, sponsored by Washington Mutual, a financial services company.

Their work and that of other students-all part of the project, will be displayed from Nov. 15 to April 25 at the Chicago Historical Society, Clark Street at North Avenue, in Chicago.

With new digital cameras, teams of seventh- and eighth-graders from 34 schools in the Chicago area are capturing the lives of local public servants. Chicago photojournalists are the judges and the educators, teaching the students technique.

John H. White, the Chicago project co-chair and a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times, says he sees the program as not only a means to educate young people about their communities, but also a way to show them what they can achieve, increase their self-esteem and improve their relationships with family, friends and future co-workers.

"I'm going to encourage everyone to realize the world is their studio," he says. "There is no limit to what they can do and what they should do."

"Home of the Free" started last year in New York. It was so successful that David Hume Kennerly, national program chair and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, expanded the program to include Chicago and Denver. Schools are chosen based on their proximity to a Washington Mutual branch, as well as the percentage of students on the free or reduced lunch program, which indicates a neighborhood's need.

The official assignment for the project is to photograph civil servants, community leaders and government officials. Some students attend community events, while others catch their subjects in action. White says he hopes the students will learn more about the world around them. He explains he suggests students attempt to photograph a sunrise or anything that interests them.

Armando Lepe, 12, another member of the Daniel Webster team, says he would like to have the chance to photograph animals of all kinds someday. He already has found his own style for photographing humans.

"I like to take pictures, but I don't like to pose them," he says. "I like to take them when they [the subjects] don't see."

For information about the program, visit www.wamuhomeofthefree.com.

Laura Bayard


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