Of the many successful projects that come out of Picturing Me, one particular activity has been fascinating to observe, the “Letter to My Photo Friend.” This project has a similar concept to pen pals, one of my favorite pastimes as a youngster! “Letter to My Photo Friend” involves student artists choosing one photograph from the current photography exhibitions. Student artists select a photograph that appeals to them the most, whether it is because they are curious about it, or because it is meaningful to them in some way. After they have become acquainted with their photo friend, they begin a dialogue with the photograph in the format of a personal letter. The student artists have a chance to spend quality time with this piece of artwork, observing and exploring the aesthetic details. It’s amazing what these student artists inquire about in their photo friend letter.
When I think of this letter activity, one student in particular comes to mind, Machia. Machia had chosen a photo by Jim Judkis, Construction Guys, from an earlier program, the Downtown Now Photography Project. Machia spent time with Construction Guys, observing the small details and inquiring about the role the construction workers played in this image. Machia concluded her letter with a thoughtful question: “I wonder if your job as a construction worker is fun and do you help your community?” I found it very heartfelt.
An exciting part of Picturing Me is that students are visited by one of the Picturing the City photographers, and engage with them in conversation at Carnegie Museum of Art. Machia was thrilled to find out that she would be meeting Jim Judkis. Machia had the opportunity to ask the questions she had written in her letter and Jim answered them to the best of his ability. Some of the student artists asked Jim about personal achievements and how one becomes a professional photographer. Jim’s positive message and his emphasis on perseverance made for an inspiring experience.
Deanna Mance was one of the primary Teaching Artists for Picturing Me. Find out more about Deanna from her instructor bio.