January 2017

Eastside Stories III Interviews

We want to give you a quick update on where Eastside Stories III is at. The Senior Viewfinders have been steadily working away on the project. We started this year by doing interviews with one another about home. Sr. Viewfinders interviewed Viewfinders staff, along with each other. Some of these interviews will probably make it into the publication, but the other purpose of these interviews was to get practice doing interviews. They were able to practice doing critical listening and asking follow up questions that responded directly what they interviewee was telling them. This type of improvisation is crucial in getting in-depth interviews that involve the types of stories that we hope will be featured in Eastside Stories III. 

The other aspect of this activity was coming up with a master list of questions. Through brainstorming and the questions that emerged during the interviews, we created a huge list of all types of questions about home. We also did some subdividing of the list, so that we had specific questions for people and groups we knew we'd be interviewing like lifelong residents and newcomers. We also pulled some quotes from the audio and video recordings of the interviews that can be used in the publication. Hopefully, some of these interviews will also be released digitally as we build up some hype for the release of Eastside Stories III in the coming months.


Texture Photography

This week, we stuck to a focus on photography and using cameras. We wanted to zoom in and have the youth focus on specific aspect of composition: texture. You don't always think about texture when you think about photography, so we wanted to challenge the youth to think outside of the box. We started by looking a close-up photos of various textured images: rope, fences, trees, strawberries, and more (you can check out the handout in our curriculum for this project). The youth had to guess what the images were of, and some proved pretty difficult to figure out. Then, we had a discussion about how there's unique and cool textures everywhere and about different ways to capture those through photos. 

Next, we did a quick refresher and overview of camera settings like ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. This part of the activity was a struggle. Having them sit and listen, while they had they cameras in hand was nearly impossible. We realized later that the best way for the youth to learn how to adjust those settings is to have them learn as they do. In other words, let them play around and experiment with the settings, and then when we're looking at the photos later, we can point out how those setting affected the image. With cameras in hand, the youth went out to take their own texture photos.

The next part of this process was to do cyanotype prints of their photos. Cyanotype is a process where you apply a specific type of ink to cotton paper and that ink changes color when exposed to the sun. We printed the youth's texture photos onto transparent papers. Then, we had the youth attach those photos on transparencies to a clear, plastic board. Next, they covered their paper with the ink and put the paper beneath their photos on the other side of the plastic board. Then, as a group we carried the board outside into the sun. Unfortunately, it was January and we only got the board out as the sun was setting. So, when we brought it back in about 30 minutes later, the cyanotype prints were blurred and didn't really come through. A tip: cyanotype needs to be done with lots of strong sunlight! Still, here are some of those great texture photos they took.


Turning Poems Into Videos

This week we took the poems that the Jr. Viewfinders wrote and turned them into videos. We wanted the the youth to get some practice operating a camera for video and doing a little bit of video editing. We started by having everyone record their poems. Youth took turns operating the camera, setting up the shot, and reading their poems. A lot of youth in our program are really interested in cameras, both photo and video. They're already using Instagram all the time--taking pictures, recording themselves, going live. So, rather than resist their interest (and sometimes obsession) with their phones, we try to use what we know they like to make engaging lesson plans. It worked out well in this case with the youth being excited about using the cameras for video and enjoying being recorded.

After they recorded their poems, the youth looked on the internet for photos that represented what they said home was for them. We also had asked them to bring in photos or videos that fit into their poems, but only a few youth actually did that, so we turned to the internet. Luckily, a lot of them used some images from their social media accounts, along with images they found on the internet. 

We had planned to do a shared screencast, so that we could do a video editing tutorial on Adobe Premiere. We thought it would help for them to see how it worked on their individual computer screens. Unfortunately, as often happens with after school programming, it didn't go exactly as planned and the screencast didn't happen. Instead, we offered one-on-one help and support to the youth on how to do video editing. While this wasn't very efficient, it did result in some awesome videos! Also, we did instill the basics of Premiere and video editing, which was a huge plus. Check out some examples below.


Writing Poems

To start the Finding Home project, we gave each of the Jr. Viewfinders their own journal. In reflecting on our programming in 2016, we felt it was necessary for the Jr. Viewfinders to have a space to reflect on their work and experiences. Additionally, we thought that it would be important for them to have a journal that they could look back to and see an archive of what they've done at Viewfinders. So, each session for this project started with a short drawing or writing prompt for them to respond to in their journals.

The first activity for this project was to write poems. We started by discussing home and the many different meanings that it has. Then, we read a poem called Home by Jennifer Burns, where she lists a whole range of things, experiences, and feelings that embody home for her. Next, we had big sheets of paper with categories written on the top: places, objects, people, memories, feelings, activities, sensations. The youth then wrote examples of each on their respective sheets of paper. Once we'd finished this activity as a group, the youth each wrote their own poems in their journals. We asked them to come up with at least ten different examples of what home was to them, and we gave them the structure of each line beginning with "Home is..." Some youth struggled with their poems, but with some one-on-one work from instructors, each youth finished a poem. And some youth had a natural instinct for poetry, which was exciting to see! Here are some examples.


Introducing Finding Home

With a new year, we started a new project with the Jr. Viewfinders. With the Sr. Viewfinders focusing on the theme of home for Eastside Stories III, we thought it would be good for the Jr. Viewfinders to focus on home, too. However, instead of looking outward to get others' perspectives on home, Finding Home will allow the Jr. Viewfinders to focus on what home means to them. 

In this project, the Jr. Viewfinders will engage with the complicated and multifaceted concept of home through an array of artistic mediums. Using writing, photography, videography, and sculptural design, participants will explore home as more than just the place they live, but also as a feeling, a sensation, an activity, a person, or a community. They will consider questions like: Who makes me feel at home? What is a place of comfort and safety for me? What objects do I carry with me? What memories do I connect to home?

At a time when the youth in our program are experiencing change in the way they see the world, this project aims to allow youth to develop their own definition and image of home. Ultimately, this project asks the youth to forge their own path and shape the project in ways that they feel best apply to their personal experience of home. So, please follow along and see how this project progresses!