Davidson College program offers photography classes to disadvantaged youth

Editor’s note: Last names were left out to protect the identity of the youth. 

DAVIDSON — Youth from Barium Springs Home For Children and Ada Jenkins Center are seeing the world in a different perspective thanks to a Davidson College initiative.

College students Aly Dove and Max Feinstein, with the help of other student volunteers, started Youth Marketing and Photography (YouthMAP) last fall to teach underprivileged youth about photography. The college hosted a gala for their budding photographers May 1 to show off, discuss, and, in some cases, sell their work.

“Photography is instantaneous, it’s accessible and it gives a new way to look at the world,” Dove said of why she chose to teach her hobby. “They can take a photo and critique it. Affirmation helps build confidence.”

Dove fell into the project by accident. She was on a mission trip and let some youngsters use her camera. They had more fun behind it than in front of it. She affirmed the idea during another mission trip where she did the same thing. During a trip in Washington, D.C., she and Feinstein perfected their idea, which earned them a grant from the Center for Civic Engagement Ideas of March competition. Last year, they had four students, this year nine, ages 11-16.

For teens like Tiffany, it’s allowed them to open up and express themselves in a different way. With a blush and a giggle, she couldn’t hide her pleasure at being able to show her work to attendees.

“We went to an abandoned park and I got on the ground and looked for reflections,” she said. “I also found a dead bird on a step and I wanted to get on level with it. I see what I’m interested in and find a way to make it look cool.”

For a session on favorite things, Tiffany photgraphed her Bible with some of the pages turned to form a heart.

During the mentors' weekly visits, youth receive short lessons about techniques, including perspective, framing and balance from Scott Cunningham.

Carlos, who started with the program last year, initially wanted to combine his photography with his love of sports.

“I was at a football game and saw this guy with a camera with a really, really long lens,” Carlos said.  “I wanted to see how it would look through it.”

This semester, he expanded from sport-related photography to landscapes and still objects taken from an angle. Carlos focused on one of the lights on a rusted pick-up truck and took the picture diagonally. 

Zach also likes to play with landscapes by moving flowers to get the right look.

“Photography expands your imagination,” he said. “It’s taught me a lot – the rule of thirds, lighting. I definitely want to keep doing it.”

For his favorite thing, he brought in a soccer ball and stacked it with other Adidas items. He said it could be something they could use for marketing.

YouthMAP partners with nonprofits and other organizations to take photographic field trips. They get to practice photography, and the organization can keep the photos.

YouthMAP started with automatic cameras, but more manual single lense reflex cameras have been the preferred cameras of choice. Students won’t get to keep the cameras, but the group is raising money to buy more cameras to reach more youth. They will also accept old equipment donations.

For more details to get involved, go to www.youthmapnation.com