Richard Cobbs likes the different perspectives a photo can give you.
“You take a picture and you look at it and you can see more things,” the 12-year-old said after his third photography class in Atlantic City.
That’s what the program, sponsored by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, is about, said Kaleem Shabazz, president of the Masjid Muhammad mosque of Atlantic City, offering neighborhood children “different vantage points.”
The six-week class is giving 10 children from Stanley Holmes Village a chance to learn about photography and about their surroundings. Under the direction of photographer and Richard Stockton College professor Wendel White, the students have visited a local barbershop, the mayor’s office and — on Wednesday — a city firehouse.
“Do you rescue people every day?” Maria Randolph, 11, asked as Capt. Bill Emmell introduced the class to Fire Station 2 at Indiana and Baltic avenues.
They got to explore the equipment and even sit on the Sea-Doo, which firefighters use for water rescues.
Amir Lampkin, 10, took pictures as several students took turns on the watercraft.
“Why’s it keep being blurry?” he asked, trying again and again until he got just the right shot.
Cobbs took his own photo as he sat in the watercraft, and then snapped a few close-ups from different angles from inside.
“I liked taking pictures of how they use the equipment,” he said later. “I liked going inside and seeing how they use it.”
This week, White will bring in contact sheets with each student’s work. He will let them pick the ones they like so he can see what piques their interest. But he’ll have the final say.
At a special ceremony at the library Aug. 28, they will “graduate” and see their work on display. Some will be at the library. Some at the prosecutor’s office.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” explained Perry Mays, head of the Coalition for a Safe Community. Instead of the courthouse carrying a negative meaning for them, “they’re going in to see their pictures hung up.”
At the beginning of Wednesday’s lesson, students took portraits of one another. Pairing up, they each went to a third-floor window inside the All Wars Memorial Building and took turns playing subject and photographer.
“I know some of you don’t like it,” White said, pointing to one of the girls who had been covering her face as a boy tried to take her picture. “And some of you like it too much.”
But the exercise was one that would help the students learn how to observe one another and how to be more comfortable as the subject.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking for,” White said as he reviewed a picture Randolph took during the exercise.
She says she likes the graphics of photography. How things are laid out.
Nyasia Grant says basketball is in her blood. But before the 11-year-old realizes her dream of making it in the WNBA, she figures it’s good to learn something new.
The program had only 10 spots, meaning a few students had to be turned away, Shabazz said. He hopes to expand the program next year.
“We’re hoping to give them a way to express themselves,” he said.
The students usually walk to the photo subject, but next week will get city-donated transportation as the destinations get farther from the Stanley Holmes Village.
Shabazz called it a true partnership. Overseen by the Coalition for a Safe Community — of which Shabazz is a member — the money for the cameras and other necessities comes from prosecutor's office, with Stockton allowing White to give his time and the city and housing authority lending space. The program also includes lunch at the end of the two-hour lesson.
But the real addition is adding to the students’ experiences, the leaders say.
While they were most familiar with the first week’s visit to Sonny's barbershop, the students are getting to know the other places in their town, such as the firehouse.
“They were a little less comfortable, but they did well there,” White said. “It’s important for them to get to know their whole community, and for them to have that experience with a whole range of people.”
Contact Lynda Cohen:
@LyndaCohen on Twitter