On Anacostia River, Youths Find Hidden Wilds, and Talents

A park area along the Anacostia River, snapped by Rashawnda Davis, 12. She said she's considering a photography career.
A park area along the Anacostia River, snapped by Rashawnda Davis, 12. She said she's considering a photography career. (Photo By Rashawnda Davis - Twp)

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By Theola S. Labbe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 12, 2005

It was like a dream realized for Jeffery Boyd, an 11-year-old living in Anacostia, when he rode a pontoon boat on the Anacostia River and snapped pictures along the way. The fifth-grader loves insects and animals so much that his best friend calls him "Nature Boy."

He captured a group of ducks peacefully sitting on the brown river in the shadow of a highway overpass. His lens also caught a row of trees seemingly upside-down in reflections in the water.

Yesterday, visitors to St. Phillips Episcopal Church on 14th Street SE saw those scenes and other photographs from students who took the river trip in October as part of the Children of Mine after-school program. The nonprofit group, which is based in Anacostia but serves children across the region, collaborated with a fine arts photographer, the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., which provided a $3,500 grant.

Joanne Miller, the photographer who taught the children photo techniques before the river trip and edited their work to create the exhibit, said she had participated in a similar project eight years ago but was looking again for a way to share her love of nature and photography with children who might be unaware of their surroundings.

The day started with a ride along the river in a pontoon boat with about 12 children, several adults and a river guide from the watershed society, followed by a hike in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, with opportunities to snap photos along the way.

Jeffery's mother, Cheri Hall, who volunteers with Children of Mine and also attended the trip, said she was amazed to see raccoon and fox prints in the mud and could scarcely believe that she was in the District, where she has lived all 43 years of her life.

"You live right here, and you don't know that all of this is out here," Hall said, standing next to her photo of hundreds of plastic soda bottles floating atop the river.

Carl Cole, a board member of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. who said he enjoys photography as a hobby, encouraged the children to lead him around the church activity room, which was transformed into a gallery with more than two dozen photos on the walls.

"You shot that while you were moving?" Cole asked LaShawn Davis, 11, as she pointed to her low-light photo of train tracks. Yes, she replied, she was in the car, and Cole said he was impressed by her steady hand.

As he walked around the exhibit, led by the children, Cole said: "You introduce children to art at a young age, and you'd be impressed to see how much problems or so-called problems go away."

LaShawn's cousin Rashawnda Davis, 12, had her own collections of photos that she had taken in a small album, and she showed off the portfolio. She explained that she chose to take some photos because of how green the weeping willow looked or because of the cluster of white clouds in an otherwise blue sky. She said she would like to take photos professionally when she is older.

Alveria Ford, one of a dozen church members who wandered into the exhibit after services, said she enjoyed seeing the children's creativity on display and thought she was looking at an exhibit of professional work. One photo in particular struck her: a path of light reflected on the ground between two large, green trees.

The photos will be on exhibit today until 1:30 p.m. at the church, and then they will be transferred to the Arts/Harmony Hall Regional Center in Fort Washington, where they will be exhibited from Dec. 19 to Jan. 14, Miller said.


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