The students learn how to use the camera, then use a variety of themes to hone their new skills around Charlottesville.
A group of Charlottesville students is using their love of art to explore the community.
The iConnect camp gives students from the Southwood trailer park community near Monticello High School a chance to learn photography skills. It's an opportunity for kids who might not get a chance to go on summer vacations or go to summer camps to get out and explore the area.
"Privileged kids always have like camps to go to and things to do and a lot of these kids have nothing," said Gloria Rockhold, who came up with the idea for the program.
As the community engagement manager for Albemarle County Schools, Rockhold decided to create a program specifically for these children.
"I've always been an avid photographer and I've taken a lot of photography classes and I thought that was a great thing to do," she said.
The intention was to connect students with photographers, authors, artists and others in the community, so that they can see non-traditional work roles.
"A lot of the students were seeing the future might look like a day laborer or kitchen worker or social worker because that was the only people they'd encounter," Rockhold said.
Poet John Casteen said this is the only program of its kind.
"You see arts programs and you see outreach programs, but this is unique in that it's both art and outreach," he said.
Now, each summer, middle school and high school students in the iConnect program learn how to operate a camera.
"At first I wasn't so good. I didn't know how to focus the camera and how to use shutter speed, macro, and all that stuff, and then my instructors told me how to use the camera and then I've grown," said Jose Roman, who has been in the program since its inception five years ago. "At first I did it just for fun but I started to like it, and that's why I continued and I've been in it for five years."
Once they've learned to use the camera, the students then go out into Charlottesville and take pictures. There are themes like work, city and the river, each giving the young artists a chance to hone their camera skills, while meeting people with various professions.
Roman's favorite photograph is of a man in a work jumpsuit. He said his instructors helped him to get a creative shot of the man.
"He told me focus more on his hands and shoes so people don't see what he does...[they see] what his name is but they can't see his face so that would be kind of interesting," Roman said. "To see how his shoes are dirty and his hands are dirty helps to see how hard he works."
Eighth grade student Lucero Sancoval's favorite picture is of "the clock man."
"The man looks like he's staring at me, but not at me... he's looking away... past me. He's not with me, he's past me," she said. "People just like stare at the camera and take a picture and that's not what he did. He was looking another place, doing his work just like a normal day," she said.
The students' pictures are displayed at an exhibit at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative offices off Monticello Avenue. The pictures are also printed in a photo book for the students to keep.
"I think a book is very representative, and I think for them to say 'I took a photography class and we made five or six books' - it just builds self-esteem," Rockhold said.
Sancoval got excited when she first saw her book.
"I hadn't seen it, so looking at the book, looking at the pictures I took...it was amazing," she said.
The next iConnect camp is being offered the last week of June. Program coordinators are recruiting upcoming sixth and seventh grade students. The books are also sold to help fund the project.