IgKnite Students Teach Little Haiti Youth the Art of Photo

Photo credit Bolton Lancaster

Photo credit Bolton Lancaster

Photo credit Bolton Lancaster

By Bolton Lancaster

As the group of children ranging from ages 3 to 16 awaited anxiously in the art studio decorated by their colorful paintings and designs, there was an air of excitement in the room as they were told what they would be doing that day. They were going to practice something that they did not have much experience with: photography. IgKnite, the student volunteer organization with the Knight Center for International Media at University of Miami, traveled to Art Studio Miami in Little Haiti Saturday morning to teach children about photography put those skills to work. IgKnite recorded interviews of the different children asking them what their artwork meant to them as well as how they use it to help cope with their everyday lives, ultimately hoping to make a video that would premiere at the art studio and feature the children’s paintings and photographs.

The nine children were given digital cameras to use for the day and taught a few basic principles of photography before they walked over to “The Farm,” a unique house in the Little Haiti neighborhood that is open to the public and has converted its backyard into a living place for birds, goats, and wild boars.

As the group of children casually walked the streets that they are so familiar with, they eagerly snapped photo after photo of different people and landscapes while keeping in mind what they had been taught. The real treat, however, was taking pictures once they arrived at their destination, where signs were painted with bright colors, the backyard was full of a wide variety of tropical plants, and the animals were surprisingly willing to act as models. “My favorite part was going to The Farm and taking pictures of the ostriches because I had never seen them before,” said David Thomas, a 12-year-old who said that he had never shot a photograph before the event. The volunteers from IgKnite said they enjoyed their time while teaching, joking with, and learning about the children. “It was interesting to go there and ask them which places they liked in their community and then take them there,” said Eric Hurley, a senior majoring in electronic media and geography.

The idea to hold the photography workshop stemmed from a successful event last spring that IgKnite and the University of Miami Student Activist Alliance (UMSAA) held at the Konbit for Haiti headquarters in Little Haiti, where the children learned about water conservation and asked to snap photographs in their community of what water meant to them. The children picked out their favorite pictures and wrote captions. The photographs were later sold at an auction to help raise money for Shalom Village Orphanage in Haiti.

Art Studio Miami was an ideal spot to hold the second photography workshop because of the studio’s emphasis is on providing youths with a safe spot where they can have opportunities to experience activities that they might not be able to otherwise.

“Through the arts we can teach creative thinking, we can teach career skills, we can teach self-empowerment and self-confidence and that’s what it’s about,” said Soralee Ayvar, the director of operations for Art Studio Miami.