By Verneva Ziga

NEOCH Volunteer

NEOCH’s second photography class, which began in 2007 and was started in order to help currently or formerly homeless individuals develop their artistic skills and ability through photography, graduated on 4. The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (ODDC) provided NEOCH with a grant that allowed the students to enjoy a number of benefits including a stipend for the length of the class, various camera equipment and photography supplies. At the end of the eight weeks they chose their ten favorite photos to start their growing.

The students, hand-picked out of 60 applicants, came from diverse backgrounds with different dreams for their futures. For Larry Whitted, to become a photographer had been a lifelong dream. He thought he would not be able to pursue photographer due to time constraints. However, this class gave him the opportunity to learn from an experienced photographer. Other reasons for taking the class included adding to one’s resume and gaining experience in career that one could set him/her own schedule. One student, Pleasure Simmons, wanted to live the “high-speed paparazzi-like lifestyle.”

Some students had experience when the class began this April. For others, this was a first introduction. The eight students were taught by Call & Post photographer Mychal Lilly. Lilly considered the class, “An opportunity to share his blessings through helping others express their own experiences with photography.” The students appreciated the amount of experience he brought to them as well as his professional attitude.

From flowers to skateboards, the students found many different subject to photograph. The lake was another favorite. One student, Toni Anderson, did not have a preference and loved to photograph.  “Everything”! The student have become so talented that some of their photos were marketing their new skill to find career. Whitted would like to be either a portrait or sport photographer. Ernest Harris is going to use his new skills as a house painter so he can take before and after shots of the homes he works on. Simmons, who wants to live like a paparazzi, hopes to do freelance photography. Three of the students wanted to use their new skills to give back to the community and NEOCH for providing this opportunity. For example, Emory wants to try and get photographer in the middle and high schools.

Sabrina who lived in a house for eleven months without heat, lights, or gas would like to write a book about homelessness, particularly about the ways it affects women and children. She feels there is not enough help available for them. She plans on photographing the places where she and her children were homeless. She also wants to photographer other women and children experiencing some of the same problem she did. Anderson and many of the other students wants use their photos to help NEOCH with pictures in the Homeless Grapevine.

Lilly wished the students had more time for field trips and thought the class needed access to more computers since editing is an important part of taking photos. In the end, everyone wished the experience could’ve lasted longer. Whitted suggested a 16 week minimum, which would double the class’s current length. NEOCH is addressing these and other concerns for the photography class of 2009.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio.