Portraits of Strength In Our Community is a participatory photography project that shares photos and thoughts of people in the Central Square community of Cambridge, MA. Through this project, we asked people in Central Square for their participation in our project to include a variety of answers to our questions. We asked our participants to answer three questions and took a photo. The questions were: What do you love about yourself? What defines you? What is a challenge or obstacle you have faced and how did you overcome it? These questions were made to be challenging, in order for us to get the most depth and understanding about the people in the Central Square community. We did not include the names of our participants because we thought their thoughts, stories, and opinions were stronger than a name. We picked the best answer to go underneath the picture in order to create a variety of answers. Through this project we hope to share our strengths and stories with the community.
Initial Idea and Planning:
The Portraits of Strength in our Community started with the idea of doing a photo installation that brought the Central Square community together. The first day of the studio was spent watching videos and looking through books of famous photography to get inspiration. The group decided the best way to bring the community together would be to asking people on the street to pose for a photograph and answer some questions. The photos would then be presented in a gallery at the YWCA down the street from NuVu. Once the gallery was hung, the faces of the community would be seen all together. The group came up with possible questions and each of the group members answered the questions to determine which ones would be best to ask along with the pictures. Using this method, it became very clear which questions would be most fitting to ask on the street. The final question the group decided on were: 1. What do you love about yourself? 2. What defines you? 3. What challange or obstacle have you overcome in your life? How?
The group divided into three smaller groups that went to different locations around central square. After producing flyers that would give people more information about what the project entailed, and creating model release forms it was time to hit the streets. It was a challenge to engage people initially but over time the group quickly learned what worked well and what didn't. After the first day of shooting the group came to the collective decision the models in our pictures were not providing any varied expression. Therefore, the focus turned to a short workshop on how to get people to open up more with their faces while posing. This helped a lot and allowed for many more positive results on the second day.
The editing process was very long. The first challange was picking which picture to use of each model. It was disappointing if there were a lot of good shots because this made it very difficult to choose just one. Another challange was getting the perfect settings for each individul picture while also making all of the shots look cohesive. Each picture had to be a square so cropping was another difficult aspect of the editing process. A big part of the process was also choosing what quote to put under the picture. To do this the group had to weed out the conversations to get the most powerful quote presented itself.
Day at the Health Clinic:
The group also spent a day shooting at the JMS Health Clinic in Alston. It was a much smaller space than the one the groups had previously worked with in Central Square. At first people were definitely skeptical of the project but eventually people became much more willing. After editing those photos we got some great results.
The final product, the gallery, left the group with a big impact and a bigger connection to the community. The pictures along with their corresponding quotes are power and motivational.
We took photos for galleries in both the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center and the Young Women's Christian Association.
The Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center is a clinic in Allston-Brighton that serves to improve the health of the Allston-Brighton community and the surrounding areas. The clinic does not turn away patients regardless of their ability to pay.
The YWCA is the Young Women's Christian Association. It focuses on empowering women and eliminating racism. We installed our exibit in the lobby and hallway of the building.