"How am I supposed to tell my story, if I don't even know who I am yet?" This penetrating question, posed directly by one of the authors of this book, is the question each of the authors had to wrestle with in the project this book grew out of. The project, entitled In My Shoes, was a school studio project in the arts enrichment program offered by Artists Working in Education (AWE) and proposed and hosted by the MPS school, the Professional Learning Institute. The eleven courageous and talented students who chose to participate in the project worked with two resident artists, photographer Stephanie Bartz and writer Marya Bradley to create the photographic and written self-portraits in this book."
The portraits you see here are the original answers each student discovered and created in response to the primary question: who am I? And to the subsequent and necessarily and creatively linked question, how am I supposed to tell/show who I am, if I don't know who I am already?
In the relatively short, yet concentrated time they had to work with the artists, the students were introduced to and invited to explore various ways of seeing and thinking about themselves, drawing on the particular potentials and inherent differences of each of the two disciplines of photography and creative writing. In their explorations, they came up against the strange depths of how much can be "told" by the face, the body and its posture, by the fall of light and shadow and by setting. At the same time, they contended with the sense of all that does not "show", or come to the surface in a photographic portrait -the life or lives "inside" -- all the feelings, the images, the memories, voices, sounds and thoughts within us -- which words may or may not be able to hint at more richly.
The self-portraits that make up this book are the expression of each student's creative exploration over the course of the project. They are true achievements for they represent moments of real courage. It takes courage to explore a subject without knowing the way. And it takes courage to try out new mediums or new ways of using familiar mediums (in this project, photography and writing) to explore a subject. But it takes a lot more courage to realize that you yourself are the subject of your exploration and that you discover who you are, in whatever medium you work in, as you go - in the process of searching - in the way that only you can tell what it feels like to "get it right" and be true to how it feels to be you - "in your shoes".
I have taken photos of four of the eleven hanging up. What a coincidence that the keynote speaker at this conference was Peter Pappas who spoke about "The Importance of Reflection." I think I may post about Peter's talk next.
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