Notes from the Oakland 100 Cameras workshop

I truly believe it's a gift to witness a person taking their first photo.  It's an honor to be present when that shutter is pressed by a new photographer who can't speak or is physically limited.  The 100 Cameras Project has been a true labor of love for me- a project that was created due to the need and interest to bring photography to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.197

Oakland was the second workshop in our 100 Cameras tour.  It was an incredible and eye opening workshop for me.  I was working with 15 students in the special ed department at Oakland Technical High School, an inner city school in Oakland, CA.  The staff and I witnessed some amazing transformations throughout our 2 day workshop.  One student, according to the staff, spoke for the first time during our workshop and students that normally don't interact with other students were engaged with the whole class, animated in ways never seen before. 

The following was written by Julian Lucas, the head of the Special Ed program at Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, CA.  He wrote this letter after the first day of our workshop.

"The day started much the same as any other. Jarel busied himself with the warmup handout in front of him and then moved on to drawing his version of “Fairly Odd Parents.” When Courtney began her presentation for the 100 Camera workshop, I reached over and took his drawing and placed it in his desk. Jarel, true to form, folded his arms and placed his head on his desk. He was through. Only after I returned his drawing would he lift his head.  From my experience, students with Downs Syndrome, like Jarel, do things in a specific way because it is safe, it is known and it has worked in the past. When we try to change their behavior, when we try to introduce new things, we threaten their “safe place". Enter Courtney Bent and 100 Cameras... Instantly, she establishes a trusting relationship with Jarel making him feel comfortable enough to let go of those behaviors that help him feel safe- the behaviors that kept him from exploring the outside world.  When Courtney first handed Jarel the camera he was a bit resistant and reticent. But throughout the day I watched Jarel come alive in a way never before.  He ran from place to place infectiously laughing and smiling while he pressing the camera of the shutter.  After the first afternoon of the100 Cameras workshop, the day ended much the same way as it began. Jarel folded his arms and placed his head on his desk. But his rationale couldn't have been more opposite. He had so much fun that he was unable to stay awake."  - Julian Lucas, Oct. 16, 2014

Thank you to the Oakland Tech staff and to the amazing commitment of Julian Lucas- a man who is devoted to his job and his students way beyond the call of duty.