“How do people eat? How do people love? How do people worship? How do people celebrate? How do people remember?”
These were the questions photography fellow Barnabas Crosby posed to a room of young image-makers at the inaugural Neighborhood Narratives Youth Photography Workshop. The workshop was a collaborative effort between Design Trust, the Museum of the City of New York and NeON Photography, initiated by previous EPS fellow, Kimberly Mota.
The workshop was held on October 16th at The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), a historic museum celebrating and documenting the history of New York City. Participants came from almost every borough in New York – fully masked and having shown proof of vaccination, they shyly trickled into the museum's media room to enjoy light refreshment and peruse through the photography books, before Barnabas called the workshop to an official start.
Gathered in a circle in the middle of the room, the group of eager photographers began to exchange ideas of what culture, and photography means to them. Working with the definition of culture as a way of doing things and photography as a way to tell a story, Barnabas connected the terms to the overarching theme of public space: “Public space gives us a unique opportunity to document, witness & understand culture.” And with the framework set, each participant was given a digital camera, courtesy of MCNY, to capture images that answer the questions:
How do people eat?
How do people love?
How do people worship?
How do people celebrate?
How do people remember?
The workshop was attended by 17 young photographers, a few parents who were also given cameras to participate, and several of Barnabas' photographer friends who assisted throughout the day as photography mentors. After the culture conversation in the media room, the attendees traveled upstairs to explore MCNY's "New York / New Music: 1980-1986” exhibition. The group of young people were some of the first to see the exhibition since the museum had been closed due to the pandemic. From the exhibition, everyone made their way outside, where Barnabas, in true humility, fell back to let one of the youth photographer's lead the way through the neighborhood for the photo walk. The photo walk served as an opportunity to truly use public spaces like Central Park, 105th street or the basketball court on 106 as foreground for creating art and capturing stories.
After a few hours of street photography, the group made their way back to the museum for lunch and a debrief session. The once quiet media room full of nervous young people was now buzzing with energy as everyone mingled and waited in anticipation to share their photos. One by one each participant had the opportunity to share their favorite photos they captured during the walk and present it to the group, unpacking the meaning behind the image. There were many "oohs and ahhs" and honest conversation about how it felt to be a visitor in a neighborhood with a desire to frame stories of real people and real moments in real time.
The workshop wrapped up with an optional visit to Kente Royal Gallery where some of the NeON Photographers had their previous photography work on display. From start to finish, Neighborhood Narratives was full of movement and memory making. While this was the first event from Design Trust centering youth, it will certainly not be the last.
You can learn more about Neighborhood Narratives fellowship, Barnabas Crosby and the Youth Fellows, Napoleon, Liz and Jadalynn here.