Right before Christmas, I had the chance to photograph a Christmas party that Lydia Home put on for their Urban Academy students.
The Urban Academy is described on their website as “an accredited, non-traditional high school that provides a safe, nurturing environment for students who may have experienced academic adversity in the past. With a Christ-honoring staff, we believe in empowering youth through education, advocacy, and discipleship. Each class is designed using differentiated instruction based on student interests, readiness, learning styles, and social-emotional needs.”
The party was hosted at the home of one of the teachers, and with a baketball hoop in the alley, a trampoline in the yard, ping pong and videogames in the basement, I was able to photograph the teens as they engaged in activities and with one another.
At first, a lot of them pretended to hide when I approached, with that awkward teenage embarassment that too much attention can cause. They giggled nervously, they hid their faces in their hands, they skitted away.
But as the morning unfurled, they started to ignore me.
And act like themselves–
–which is exactly what I was after.
It makes me understand why some people think that pictures steal away a part of the soul.
The unguarded, soul-showing expressions were my favorite shots of the day.
No defenses–no smiling for the camera–just pure, unadulterated personhood.
It’s one of my favorite things about photography.
Whether it was a moment of concentration . . .
. . . or a stare into space . . .
. . . or a whimsical smile . . .
. . . or a playful grin.
I loved the experience . . .
. . . and I loved the results.
The staff obviously cares for these teens, and it was fun to see them relate, instruct, identify, share, and laugh.
I sent the CD with all the images to the Lydia Home staff last week, and I hope they can put these to use–but it was worth it to me no matter what just to get a glimpse into these lives, and these beautiful faces.