Our Kitchen: An Educational Partnership with NYPL's Columbus Branch Library
Thursday evening marked the culmination of a pilot program launched this fall in partnership with the New York Public Library. Twice a week, Magnum Foundation Fellows Alexis Lambrou, Pete Pin and Aleksandra Kononiuk gathered at the Columbus Branch Library to mentor high school students participating in the NYPL Innovation Labs to obtain needed school credit. The class positioned documentary photography as a learning vehicle for gaining 21st century technology skills and forming personal and collective narratives.
Students ventured to the streets to explore Hells Kitchen, home to the neighborhood branch library and their schools. They travel to and from the area everyday, but realized that never before had they really taken a close look at the surrounding neighborhood - at its people, its shops, its pulse. Our Kitchen is the exhibition of their discoveries, on view into the first weeks of the new year.
Our Kitchen tells the story of the semester’s learning process. From making the pictures, to editing and sequencing, to curating the presentation, each student contributed to the group project with a specific role.
Community engagement is one of the Magnum Foundation pillars. Modeled on the idea of a residency, this new and growing partnership with the NYPL’s Innovation Labs gives emerging practitioners the opportunity to be out in the field refining their own collaborative documentary processes. It was integral to the success of the pilot program that the NYPL students were learning from photographers that are in the midst of their own personal projects and seeking new ways to approach, access and represent the communities they immerse themselves in.
See Metro’s coverage of the event and NYPL-Magnum Foundation partnership program: “How the NYPL uses photography to help students graduate.”
The Our Kitchen exhibition features both student photographs and snippets of text extracted from their reflective writing. Our Kitchen emphasizes the unique teen-perspective, as seen in the concise SMS-like language of their text. The students developed their own narrative of the community and of their personal processes, and then a strategy for getting the story of Hell’s Kitchen and their photographic experience across to an audience.