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Post Magazine: A Year in the Life of Washington's Children

Post Magazine Cover Story

Keith W. Jenkins
Washington Post Photo Editor
Monday, December 6, 2004; 1:00 PM

The world may be a scary, dangerous place, but hope springs eternal. Just look at the faces of the children in yesterday's Washington Post Magazine Photography issue.

Post photo editor Keith Jenkins, who oversaw yesterday's special issue, was online Monday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. ET to field questions and comments.

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Jenkins is the photo editor of The Washington Post Magazine.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Keith Jenkins: Welcome to anyone on the chat. I hope you enjoyed the magazine this past Sunday and I hope I can answer any questions about it and our process you may have.

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Washington, D.C.: I was disappointed at the lack of captions explaining many of the pictures, such as the Beautillion. What did you decide to be so sparing?

Keith Jenkins: One big reason was space - we only had a set number of pages for the issue and chose to devote much of that to photographs rather than text.
Another reason was that many of the photographs, or similar ones, had appeared in the Post with stories more fully explaining their content. The Beautillion was one such image.

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Washington, D.C.: While I thought many of the pictures good and representative, I was chagrined that you pictures did not fully capture the African American youth that I know in the Washington area. I know many children receiving full scholarships, gifted musicians and athletes in non traditional sports. However, your pictures, I think, did not capture this. Even your pictures of honors students had them in a romantic embrace, as if their achievement alone was unworthy of a photo, say at an honors ceremony. Also, I felt that your picture of AA was filled with stereotypical football and basketball players. In this area, their are chess, golf, tennis and yes, fencing youth that are African American but they were not depicted. I would not have minded the youth in the coffin, because after all this is real life, if it was balanced against less stereotypical views of AA youth.

Keith Jenkins: It is always a challenge, given space limitations, to fully capture the experiences of any group in an area as diverse as ours. What we hoped to do was give as realistic a taste as possible.

The honor student at the prom was also shown playing basketball in his neighborhood and at the funeral of one of his friends and is from a series that ran this past year in the newspaper covering a year in his life - we chose only a portion of that to include here.

As for fencing African-American youth, my son is one of them, and that was how we ended up taking photographs of fencers. But ultimately in each instance we tried to go with the best photo, mindful of diversity and also of reality.

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Washington, D.C.: I think it was an extremely poor editorial decision to put a picture of the deceased teenager laying in his coffin. A picture from his life would have been more appropriate.

Keith Jenkins: One of the hard decisions we had to make was how much of the real world of our children to include. We ultimately felt that it would be wrong to exclude this photo - both for the pain it shows but also for the promise shown in his friend, paying respects, who is an honor student working hard to make his life different.

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Anonymous: Virtually none of the photos depicted the children in close connection with loving, supportive parents...which is after all the essential need and relationship of a child.

In showing only the children, you may have indeed captured a "premature individuality" they are forced to achieve in our "everyone's too busy for them" culture.

What do you think?

Keith Jenkins: We made a decision to focus, as much as possible, on only children - as much for them as for us.

We wanted this to be an issue where hopefully they could see themselves reflected in the faces here - not as someone's son or daughter or student - but as themselves; equally as important as the adults who regularly grace our pages.

We wanted this to be an issue they could feel belonged to them.

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Washington, D.C.: It was nice to see such a diversity of faces among the pictures. It did get me wondering, though. Did you make a concerted attempt to have the photos represent an approximate distribution of the kinds of people living in Washington?

Keith Jenkins: While diversity is something we always try to keep in mind, the pictures, many culled from the Post archives from this past 12 months or so, pretty much presented themselves just as you see them.
This is a very diverse area and the pictures just reflect that. If anything, we learned a bit more about just how diverse while doing the edit.

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Herndon, Va.: The photo of Holly Brown pitching is just stunning! Perfect composition and lighting. Thanks for sharing it with us in the magazine.

Keith Jenkins: Thank you, it was one of our favorites too.

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Columbia, Md.: Spectacular photos! Are the photographers using any
other lighting besides available light and on-camera flash
in any of the images?

Keith Jenkins: Thank you!
I think you have hit the nail on the head. With maybe one exception, these are all the product of available light and some minor, additional flash lighting. The range of cameras, however, runs from 8x10 view cameras to the latest digital SLRs.

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Washington, D.C.: Will you post all your pictures online?

washingtonpost.com: Photo gallery: A Year in the Life of Washington's Children

Keith Jenkins: There you have it.

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Monterey, Calif.: I was struck by how many of the photos showed children basically doing "smaller" imitations of "grown up" stuff.

While there were a few pictures of kids just being kids...begging for candy, hanging out at picnic (albeit a "unity" picnic...apparently with an agenda) -- they were the exception.

Please comment.

Keith Jenkins: Taking a look back at the magazine just now I would slightly disagree - there are kids at summer camp, taking music lessons, at the dentist, singing in school and playing sports. I think, however, we also showed pictures of kids doing what they do in the process of growing up; learning from and imitating what they see adults do. This is part of the experience we did not want to leave out.

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Fairfax, Va.: How many images were there total and where did most of them come from? How many did you have to exclude and which ones did you wish you had room to add?

Keith Jenkins: Good question. We ended up with about 35 photos in the magazine. This was down from a 'final' edit of just under 100 photographs. That group was selected from over 1000 in the Post and magazine archives of the past year.
Obviously some were from the same event or showed similar things (how many football games can you show?) but there were still a good, unique 100 images that were worthy of inclusion.
I wish we had included some images from schools - these fell out primarily because they are the most likely to be seen in the newspaper on a regular basis - but, with more space I would have added some to the mix.

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Maryland: How did you gather images or what was the photographers' assignments in the edition -- to capture the innocence of children? I'm just wondering if there was a theme that you were trying to convey in the issue.

Keith Jenkins: Most of the images came from the Post newspaper's archives of general assignment work. Often, where there is only room for one or two pictures in the paper, there are 5 or 10 great ones on the cutting room floor. That is where we started.

There were also some assignments for 3 of the magazine's freelance photographers. There instructions were simple, to focus on the children. We targeted a visually diverse group of locations for these photographers; a science fair in Virginia, an event at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, The Washington National Opera's camp; hoping for some stellar images from places not often seen unless you are a parent dropping off or picking up!

Keith Jenkins: The theme was simply to celebrate children in a way similar to what Edward Steichen did in his 'Family of Man' exhibit in the 1950's.

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Washington, D.C.: I was really disappointed to notice an absence of Hispanic children in this article. Considering the large numbers of Latinos in the area, I was baffled as to why our kids were left out.

Keith Jenkins: It was a challenge to include every ethnic group, and again, we were really trying to include great photos without an agenda.
You will find, however, on the contents page, a photograph from the magazine's cover story this summer on kids hanging out at the Wheaton-Glenmont Pool. That photo features two of the story's subjects, Adrianna Burgos and George Romero.

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Alexandria, Va.: Did Jenny Beeson work on this issue?

Keith Jenkins: Yes, Jennifer Beeson is the Assistant Picture editor at the magazine and helped with the issue. We also got some great help from our summer intern, Amanda Musson, who is now working as a picture researcher in New York.

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Washington, D.C.: I enjoyed the issue and think it showed children doing what children do. It was not meant to be exhaustive, but shows them laughing, crying, dancing, pitching, sitting etc. Great job.

Keith Jenkins: Thank you!

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Washington, D.C.: Can some of the images be purchased?

Keith Jenkins: Some of the Washington Post images can be obtained through the newspaper. The photographs from freelancers can be purchased from them directly. Send an email to 20071@washpost.com and we can put you in touch with the right people.

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Keith Jenkins: Thank you all for the wonderful and thoughtful questions!

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