Through My Lens Program Opening Eyes

Call it an art experiment: give 25 inner city kids cameras, plus guidance from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Carl Juste of the Miami Herald and it yields magic, a window into their communities, their daily lives.

"They don't have all these filters that I as an adult have. They don't have the prejudices. They don't have this idea of making an image that's going to please a certain viewer," Juste said.

It's called, "Through the Lens: Art is Life", part of the Play to Win Foundation's after school program.

"And for me, it made me appreciate my community because I got to show people outside of my community, Overtown, what it’s all about," said Elijah Wells, a student at Miami Arts Charter School and a participant in the program.

They’ve got some big time sponsors for this project including Microsoft, Nike, and several local community groups including Urgent, Inc. The idea is to try to spark some kind of passion among the kids.

"That we really hit something inside one or all of the kids that may be their sort of ticket to a better future," explained Jackie Mansfield of the Play to Win Foundation.

Learning by doing seems to be the mantra for the program, and the kids take it to heart.

"You have to observe things from different views in life," said Robert Jenkins, a senior at Miami Northwestern High.

The camera opens up a creative outlet, a way for the kids to express themselves.

"I get to see things I never noticed before," said Tyrone Powell, a 6th grader and the youngest student in the program.

Eighth grader Joshua Jenkins added another benefit to the month-long Through the Lens experience, “You get to meet new people, meet new friends.”

The biggest thrill is that a selection of their pictures is being displayed at Art Basel in the Fusion-MIA exhibit.

"When they told me about the opportunity that my photos can be a part of it, I cried a little bit, I was, like, really?" said Elijah Wells, unable to contain his excitement.

Their photos speak for themselves and they speak for the young people who made them. The exhibit opens Wednesday night. Fusion-MIA is located at NW 2nd Avenue and 23rd street in the Wynwood area of Miami.

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