Future Photomakers is an arts program for middle school students in Atlanta that enables them to express their creativity through photography.
In May of 2014, Keith Weaver and I started planning a photography class for junior high students in Atlanta, Georgia, an area known for its lack of arts programming. Planning something at this scale could have been an overwhelming task, but we were up for the challenge, finding time between their full time jobs and family commitments to devote to making Future Photomakers a success.
How It Came Together
Future Photomakers emerged out of a need that we saw in Atlanta public school arts funding which has been drastically decreasing for years. It’s no secret that the state of Georgia sits at the bottom of the pile in this category and that there is an incredible need for children’s art programming. In our own small way we want to make a difference in the lives of kids and pass along our passion for photography and storytelling to this next generation of image makers.
In 2014 we submitted our proposal about teaching kids photography with instant cameras to the VSCO Artist Initiative. Visual Supply Company (VSCO) would accept our proposal and fully fund our endeavor into this program.
School Partnership and Edgar Allen
In May 2015, we made contact with an incredible art teacher named Erin Ray. Erin works at Sutton Middle School on Atlanta’s Westside and was a huge supporter of our idea. We wanted to make a partnership with a local public school to teach their students and after meeting with Erin it was clear that Sutton was the perfect choice.
Over the course of the next 4 weeks, Erin was able to connect us with these 12 amazing kids from Sutton who all shared a love for photography and they became our first students at Future Photomakers.
Getting Sutton Middle School, their parents and kids to believe in our project was a huge win for us. We knew having their trust and support was vital to making this a success. The bigger question was where do you host 12 middle schoolers to teach them about photography for 6 weeks? The obvious answer was Atlanta’s incredible Goat Farm Arts Center. Allie Bashuk, a good friend of ours who lives at the Goat Farm, put us in touch with owner Anthony Harper and we began the conversation about Future Photomakers with him. The critical connection ended with Mason Poe, owner of Edgar Allan and a former colleague of Keith’s. His space on the Goat Farm’s premises was perfect for what we had planned.
The Goat Farm is a unique part of the arts community in Atlanta and having the opportunity to be part of that was something we strongly felt would also be important to the success of the program and would be fun for the kids. Anthony and Mason got really excited about Future Photomakers and what it could be and they immediately said yes to us hosting it in Edgar Allan’s space.
Aida, Bryce, Colin, Earicka, Hasina, Jade, Jalin, Laila, Lauren, Nate, & Ruth. I photographed each of the kids in a studio setting to show them more about studio lighting, get them to relax and have a good time.
Over the course of the class, the students learned about positive and negative space, natural and studio lighting, portrait and object photography, among many other techniques. We wanted to let the kids know you don’t have to take photography too seriously. It put the kids at ease to have fun first, and learn along the way” Eventually the kids were challenged to take on larger, independent assignments by asking them to document Atlanta in a unique way. They would have to compile a set of portraits and photos of interest in Atlanta. We pushed them in later weeks to be more comfortable talking to strangers for their portraits and getting a unique story.
There are those classes, either in school or extracurricular, that leave a lifelong impact. For many of these kids, Future Photomakers is that class, giving them so much more than knowledge. They gained confidence, discovered a new passion, expressed themselves, created art and memories that last.
The challenge of branding a personal project is whether to go completely wild with no rules or build a very structured brand system to work within. I wanted to have a consistent set of of colors and patterns, but have room to play with typography and illustration.
For the program itself, I designed the identity and pieces as I went. I wanted the kids to feel like they had a custom experience that no other education program would for them, so we made sure their welcome package was full of inspiration. I created a patch that we were able to put on backpacks from Herschel, so they'd be the coolest kids in school. They were also equipped with photo albums, notebooks, plenty of a film and a camera all for their own.
I started tackling various illustrations to fill out graphic needs for collateral and online material. Some of the illustrations would be the basis for merch like pins and stickers.
The Student Showcase
At the end of the program, we intended to have a public art show for the kids to display their work. The kids have never had their work on display, and we wanted all of Atlanta to see what they had produced. On top of that, we wanted to raise money to go back into the Sutton Art Program with Erin Ray so that they could invest in more photo resources to keep the kids learning going.
Goods for the Show
We love art shows, and we love merchandise you can get at art shows and concerts. I wanted to create a set posters and other swag available to buy at the show.
Part of us raising funds to go back into Sutton Arts Program, we designed exclusive posters for the student showcase event in March 2016. We wanted them to not look like gig posters, but art posters that guests of the show would want to hang up in their home. Local printer DangerPress assisted with the screen printing of the posters for the show.