My Viewpoint Program Exhibition at Venice Arts
On August 6, 2011, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, Venice Arts Gallery will hold an opening reception for Shipping & Receiving: Photographs and Letters between Venice, CA and Dupree, SD. The exhibition highlights a photographic and personal storytelling exchange between youth in Venice and youth on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota and wil feature texts and panoramic, collaborative double-exposure photographs, paired with over thirty black-and-white and color photographs taken by youth who have participated in the My Viewpoint Photography Program since its inception in 2005.
This is the first public exhibition of their work. Inge Morath Award winner Emily Schiffer, founder of the My Viewpoint Photography Program, wil accompany five of the students from the Cheyenne River Reservation to Los Angeles for the exhibition. “This exchange and exhibition has helped our students to view their artwork within a larger context. The students who participated in the exchange have been studying photography for years, but this project enabled them to really look at their lives, identify what is important to them, and turn that reflection into photographs,” says Schiffer.
Twenty-two youth ages 12–21 in the Art Mentoring Program at Venice Arts in Venice, California, and the My Viewpoint Photography Program in Dupree, South Dakota, participated in this photographic and personal storytelling exchange over 2010 and 2011. Using 35mm cameras and black-and-white film, students shot photographs documenting their lives and surroundings, then shipped the film across the country to one another, to be exposed again in the cameras of their peers. This process—called double exposure—yields unpredictable and surprising results that emerge only after the film is processed: Horses on the Midwestern prairie run through fields of California roses. Snow-covered houses and winter-bare tree branches merge with ocean-drenched beaches. A young woman peers out of the window of her South Dakota home and sees the Venice Pier. In an age dominated by the instant gratification of digital photography, which gives up its secrets immediately, these images reveal theirs slowly, rewarding slower, more contemplative viewing.
Together with rolls and rolls of film, the students also sent letters sharing information about their lives and learning about those of their peers across the country. They found differences—one would not, for instance, expect to be able to lie on a main road in Los Angeles for any length of time without cars coming by, as one youth describes in Dupree. Yet despite—or perhaps because of—their disparate geographical locations, the youth were astonishingly open in their letters to one another. Writing back and forth, they bonded over the similarities they found in the fundamental challenges and aspirations in their lives: love for and conflicts with family, the desire to pursue education and find a career that is fulfilling, and a continual striving to grow as creative individuals. Please view their work on the My Viewpoint website in the “exhibitions” section.