The Washington Post

Literacy Through Photography project tells stories through the lenses of D.C. kids

Syiion Robinson’s snapshot “Sneaky Kaliah” caught his little sister looking for candy. (Syiion Robinson)

Photographers don’t just point the camera and click. They make choices about lighting, the camera’s angle and composition.

This year, 281 students at four Washington schools learned about these choices for a project called Literacy Through Photography.

Now you can see their photos and writing at a free exhibit called “D.C. Unfiltered.” It runs through July 10 at Gallery 102 at George Washington University in Northwest Washington.

“I liked catching the action,” said Syiion Robinson, a third-grader at Garfield Elementary School. In “Sneaky Kaliah,” he captures a dramatic moment: his little sister searching for their mother’s hidden candy.

Many students were inspired by family, friends and animals. A bright-eyed pooch gazes from “My Dog Princess” by Jeremiah Darton, another Garfield third-grader.

Zion Dailey’s “My Nephew Quaron Is Driving!” is among 61 kids’ photos on display at George Washington University. (Zion Dailey)

Aaliyah Shabazz recorded her favorite part of a second-grade trip to the National Museum of Natural History. “The tarantulas!” said Aaliyah, who attends Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

“I wanted to take a picture of a happy occasion,” said Luis Wallace, a third-grader at King. In “My Grandpa’s Birthday,” four of his relatives smile during a meal at a crab restaurant.

Literacy Through Photography is run by Turning the Page, a group that helps bring fun learning activities to D.C. schools. Sierra Miller and other members of the TTP staff trained teachers and gave classroom lessons. They let the kids borrow inexpensive digital cameras.

Students could bring the cameras home and take pictures in four broad subject areas — family, community, self and dreams, said Ellie Canter, who oversees the project at TTP.

Everyone does something different with the writing and photography, Canter said. That is part of the creative fun.

Isaiah Howard, a Garfield fifth-grader, wrote a playful poem for “My Muscles,” a photo of his flexed biceps. Zion Dailey had a funny description for “My Nephew Quaron Is Driving!”

“There’s a lot of talent in this room,” Fahim Shabazz, Aaliyah’s father, said as he looked at the exhibit.

At Kramer Middle School, the sixth-graders experimented with social media. Their teacher, Keisha Woods, set up an Instagram account for a daily “photo challenge.” Each day she would ask students to write and take a picture of, for example, “an object, a friend, a color.” Sharing their words and photos helped the students realize “commonalities they didn’t know they had,” she said.

For the exhibit’s opening, Zion, a third-grader at Raymond Education Campus, read aloud a quote from Bruno Barbey, a French photographer: “Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world.”

The young photographers have learned to love this artistic language.

“I want to take more and more pictures,” Zion said. She then eagerly listed some future subjects: the Capitol, the White House and her favorite boy band.

Mary Quattlebaum

If you go

What: “D.C. Unfiltered,” an exhibit of 61 photos and writing by D.C. students.

Where: Gallery 102 at George Washington University, 801 22nd Street NW.

When: Through July 10, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

How much: Free.

Best for: Age 5 and older.

For more information: A parent can call the gallery at 202-994-6085 or visit art.columbian.gwu.
. Turning the Page can be reached at 202-347-9841 or

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