What's in a picture?
That was the question for 25 middle school students attending a photography workshop this summer sponsored by Communities in Schools (CIS) of Robeson County and UNC Pembroke's Family Life Center.
Their photographs and ideas are on display through December 3 in the second floor lobby of UNCP's James B. Chavis University Center.
Caroline Dunnum, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker and 2002 UNCP graduate, wrote a grant and directed the program, called "Community Through Photography."
"There is a need for arts education for children in Robeson County," Dunnum said. "The larger goal of the project is to get young people to see the world in a different way, to validate their experience."
Some powerful experiences were explored by the student photojournalists.
"During the workshop, the grandmother of one of our students passed away," Dunnum said. "She felt good about how she honored her grandmother and her family through her photography and narrative text."
The students were trained in documentary arts and sent out in their communities with an eye toward thinking critically about where they live, what they would change and what they would preserve. Their vision of community - in photography and words - is on display.
The six-day photography workshop was funded by a $1,200 grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council and held on UNCP's campus. Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies and UNCP's Native American Resource Center also contributed their resources.
Duke instructors worked three days with the students on interpreting the meaning of images that included a self-portrait project.
Dr. Stan Knick, director of UNCP's Native American Resource Center, gave a tour of the museum and a clinic on exhibiting photography as well as ideas about the cultural and historical context of art.
Storyteller Louise Omoto Kessel and UNCP School of Education writing specialists Dr. Jane Huffman and Dr. Janet Fortune did workshops.
Native American historian and UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral candidate Malinda Maynor also delivered a session on local history. Maynor is director of the Lumbee River Fund, which preserves photos and history of the local Native American community. The fund contributed framing and other materials for the exhibit.
"We had people from all over the state working with the children on a variety of media," Dunnum said. "It was a very unique experience for a diverse group of students, and we all learned a lot."
Nicklus Cummings Pembroke, North Carolina
These are trees that I climbed when I was very little. When I was seven, I made a tree house. I would read books, look out the window, take pictures of birds, and watch TV. I would go to my tree house at 7:00 in the evening.
Maya Washington Red Springs, North Carolina "The Old Burn"
The Old Burn was built in 1905. It looks like this now because a storm called Fran caused it to be down like that. It belonged to my great-great grandfather and grandmother. I like to look at it because I try to remember all the good things they did when my mother tells me about it.
Shernelia Sumpter Red Springs, North Carolina
In my picture is my great grandmother's house and me. This house holds so much. This house was built a long time ago. My great grandmother's name is Inez Galbreath. She was born on August 23, 1915, and she died on June 21, 2004.
Some things I can remember is the brown chair on the left. My grandmother has had that chair for a long time. I can remember when I fell off the porch in the chair. Also when the sun would shine on that chair, if you sat down, it would burn your butt. Also my grandmother and her friends used to come outside every day and she would sit in that chair. She used to hold me in that chair when I was little.
Something else I remember is when my grandmother used to keep all her nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Almost everyday she used to chase us out of the house with a broom. She used to have a back porch but not anymore. Because all eight of us used to try our best to get out the backdoor before she would get to us. I remember it like it was yesterday
Also I can remember when my sisters had band practice. I would have to stay there every single day. At first I didn't like it but then it got okay. My grandmother and I used to have long conversations. She used to always tell me that when my birthday comes she was going to make me a cake and throw me a party. If you didn't bring gifts, you couldn't eat.
I remember all this stuff. I miss grandmother so much. But I know she is always with me and I love her, forever and ever, nonstop.