The summer photography program was meant to give Atlantic City children a new perspective on their hometown.
On Wednesday, the images they captured gave many a new view of the kids.
“Many of the photographs were a surprise to me,” said Wendel White, the Stockton College photography professor who taught the six-week course. “I think that what we have is a really wonderful result.”
The results were on display Wednesday during a reception at the Atlantic City Free Public Library that celebrated the children’s graduation.
“Which one do you like best?” acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain asked Qua’shirah Borden, 12, as he pointed to two photographs she took.
She chose one of classmate Tamara Pannell, also 12.
The photograph captures Pannell in near-silhouette sitting in an upstairs window of the All Wars Memorial Building. Beyond the glass is a glimpse of Stanley Holmes Village across the street, where all of the children live.
“This one is really good,” said Housing Authority Executive Director Pam James, as she asked for a copy of the photo for display as well, showing a positive side of the neighborhood that often gets negative publicity.
“I can’t express how proud I am of our children today,” James said. “Programs like this are very much needed for our youth. The experience and engagement by others is priceless.”
The class was a collaborative effort led by the Coalition for a Safe Community and funded by money left over from the county gun-purchase program.
Public Safety Director Will Glass commended coalition leaders Perry Mays and Kaleem Shabazz for the work they have done, especially with the city’s youth.
“If you can get to the children, you can turn a community around,” he said.
“I think they really turned out good,” said Maria Randolph, 11, beaming as she stood near her display. “I’m really happy and excited.”
Her photo of a figurine at Sonny’s Hair Salon was a favorite of many of the adults who attended the event.
“I thought it was neat to have a person doing somebody’s hair and a little version of it next to it,” she said.
“I’m impressed,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said, telling the students that this newfound talent could serve them in the future.
“In life, it’s better to have an education as well as a vocation,” he said. “Photography can become a very rewarding career.”
As part of their graduation, the students each got a camera of their own. They wasted no time trying them out, replacing the cell phones they had been using to capture the ceremony.
Markell Dixon was surprised to find out the prosecutor immediately favored one of his photos — a low-angle shot of the Public Safety Building, creating an imposing image.
McClain picked one photo from each of the students to display either in his office or in the Atlantic County courthouses in Atlantic City and Mays Landing.
The students also received trophies from Bishop Robert Hargrove, of Grace Family Church in Egg Harbor Township, and “Stop the Violence” bags that included school supplies courtesy of Mays’ wife, Wendy, a retired teacher.
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