WASHINGTON (May 7, 2007)–National Geographic contributing photographer Eli Reed and Houston Chronicle staff photographer Mayra Beltran will give 20 teenage African students from the Houston Independent School District a unique opportunity to document their lives and surroundings during National Geographic’s Houston Photo Camp 2007.
From May 25-28, the high school students, former refugees from different regions of Africa, will photograph, edit and design a portrait of the African immigrant community that has recently settled into new lives in America in the Houston area. This Photo Camp is presented in collaboration with Houston Grand Opera’s “Song of Houston” initiative — a multiyear program designed to promote cross-cultural understanding through story-telling in the creative and performing arts.
Through art exploration and therapy, the project will focus on the lives the students have made for themselves. Art therapy is one of the strongest ways to create long-term positive recovery of children who have had traumatic experiences, experts who work with displaced populations believe.
Reed and Beltran will brief the students on photographic vision, equipment and technique; accompany them on their assignments; critique their work; and guide them through the process of creating a story. As the work is reviewed, the team will use the photographs as a catalyst for discussion about the young people’s life experiences.
“We hope that Photo Camp 2007 can give these students a voice and the opportunity to explore the current state of their lives,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president, Mission Programs. “We feel honored to participate in this endeavor.”
During the four-day workshop at the Multi-Ethnic Community Center in Houston, the students will be assigned to photograph images of “Surroundings,” “My Life in Houston” and “Portraits of Family and Community.” Reed and Beltran, with National Geographic photo editor Laura Lakeway, technical director Evan Wilder and Houston Photo Camp coordinator Susanna Frohman, will work with small groups of the teens during each session. Participants, their families and community members are invited to a final presentation of the students’ work at the Multi-Ethnic Community Center on the final day of the workshop.
EVOLT SLR cameras for the Photo Camp have been provided by Olympus Imaging America Inc. Additional equipment has been donated by Lowepro, Epson, Adobe and Kingston.
As part of the Houston Grand Opera’s “Song of Houston,” the students’ photos will be displayed with artwork and poetry from other “Song of Houston” collaborations at various community venues, including the Wortham Theater Center, throughout Houston in fall 2007.
“Seeing the city of Houston through the photos and stories of these recently arrived teenagers brings a fresh perspective to the everyday details of life that pass most of us by unnoticed,” said Sue Elliott, “Song of Houston” project manager. “That these immigrants have agreed to share their experiences with us is truly a wonderful gift, which in turn promotes greater understanding of the human condition.”
In addition to Reed’s work for National Geographic magazine, he has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1988 and has covered editorial assignments for various national and international publications and projects. Known for the strong empathy conveyed through his photographic essays, Reed has worked on film documentaries and major motion pictures. He has received numerous awards for his work and is currently a clinical professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Before becoming a staff photojournalist at the Houston Chronicle, Beltran worked at The Corpus Christi-Caller Times and completed the Knight-Ridder Tribune Rotating Internship.
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 350 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and four other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; DVDs; maps; and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com.