This spring, I rode Boston’s #66 bus with a camera, an audio recorder and a gaggle of ten to sixteen-year-olds. Why? To jump on a unique chance to use photography as a reflective tool for investigating what makes neighborhoods tick.
A group of staff and volunteers encouraged these youth to use their new critical photographic eyes, honed during a fifteen-week training institute, to document and compare two neighborhood centers in Boston. Each youth, in his own way, formed a new definition for photojournalist and activist. These students are part of the Boston based international non-profit Peace in Focus. Founded in 2007, the organization aims to create social change by engaging youth in a dialogue about peace in their own lives and their communities and giving them the critical photojournalism skills to become local, place-based voices for change.
After four four to six-hour outings, the youth decided to produce a collaborative essay of photographic pairs, highlighting both visual and attitudinal similarities and differences in the two corners. These photos will become part of the citizen media displaying on the storefront screens of the Knight Foundation funded public art project called Virtual Street Corners, which seeks to break down the divide and distance between two very diverse communities with significant historical connections: Coolidge Corner in Brookline, and Dudley Square in Roxbury.
John Ewing, the Virtual Street Corner’s creator, noted in a PBS IDEAS Lab blog post:
“The Greater Boston neighborhoods of Brookline and Roxbury are 2.4 miles apart, yet there is little interaction between them because of divisions of race and class…It is my goal…to inspire or provoke people into having more involved conversations and exchanges. I’d even like to see people travel from one location to the other. Despite it being a 15-minute bus ride between these two neighborhoods, it is amazing how rarely this happens.”
Here’s a video version of the youths’ collective photo essay, entitled “Our Journey to the Corners,” also featured in an exhibit at the USES Harriett Tubman House in Roxbury, where they held their Saturday training sessions. All the photographs that appear in this short movie were captured by Peace in Focus youth participants, showing a mix of shots from Coolidge Corner on the left and Dudley Square on the right. The audio you hear is pulled from interviews the youth did with storeowners and randomly recorded during the bus rides.
Voices heard include:
Post by Danielle Martin.