The In-Sight Photography Project was conceived by Bill Ledger and John Willis when they were distracted by a large number of teenagers hanging around in downtown Brattleboro and by the police who were moving them along for loitering. This scene was so distressing that they decided to teach a free course for these youths. The plan was to offer a one-time, one-month class during the summer break for area youth. Encouraged by an outpouring of community support, John and Bill built a darkroom and teaching facility at the Brattleboro Teen Center (now known as the Boys and Girls Club) and the one-month course quickly blossomed into a year-round program.
As photographers committed to their medium, the volunteers and staff at In-Sight know the value of the photographic image and its use of visual language to help individuals discover themselves. This process of seeing and discovering helps teach individuals about themselves through a visual language that can then be used to communicate with others. The result is teens who have greater self-esteem and who are more willing to develop a viewpoint and present it to others. The medium of photography thus becomes a tool for building both self-esteem and communication skills.
In-Sight now offers photography courses at the introductory, intermediate and advanced levels for students ages 11 to 18, and has had over 1,500 participants. Additionally, the IRS recognizes the project as a not-for-profit corporation, and public awareness of the benefits the organization provides to area youth is growing at an ever-increasing rate. Local interest had surpassed what the original facility could offer and In-Sight has moved to a new facility, just down the street from the Boys and Girls Club.
The incentive classes have proven to be one of our most unique and successful projects. These classes allow any motivated teen to earn their own camera upon fulfillment of a two-part commitment: first, the students agree to participate in every class and do every assignment; and second, they agree to serve as mentors to new students in the next round of courses. In-Sight is expanding the mentoring program to have students work with professional photographers and to receive academic credit for work accomplished.
The addition of new courses allows us to serve a wider portion of the community. Recent additions to our program have included a class in public art and we have reinstated the class for those living in the Brattleboro Retreat’s residential substance abuse program, as well as a project with the Westgate Housing Community. In-Sight has also supported a class for women offered in conjunction with the program “Making the Most of I.”
While no interested youth between the ages of 11 and 18 has been turned away for financial reasons, we have continued to offer a diverse range of classes for youth. In-Sight is currently in the process of building ties to Brattleboro organizations to develop community service learning as a way to attract a larger portion of the community and inspire people of all ages to work together.
Exposures, which is now more than 10 years old, works with groups and educators in partnering locations to offer Exchange programming designed to instigate meaningful, creative conversation among youth from distinct geographic and cultural regions. Through fall and spring classes in their home communities, youth in Exposures Exchange programs learn photography skills to document their experiences, cultures, and communities and collaborate with youth in participating locations through an online gallery and forum in which they share and respond to one another’s creative works. Exchange programming is intended to generate continuous connections and ongoing creative dialogue between participating youth and communities. Exchanges also serve as an opportunity for participants to explore their interest in Exposures’ SUmmer programs as youth who take part in the Exchanges may be eligible to apply for the Summer program.
Please help the In-Sight program continue to grow by spreading the word, donating time, materials, or financial support. Thank you all for your previous and future support.