I love the art and the craft of storytelling. I enjoy well-told stories, whether through podcasts, TV shows, movies, books, photos, or videos. Over the years I have both consumed and tried to foster an environment of storytelling. I’ve started various experimental blogs. I’ve learned from organizations like The Moth and TED talks, as well as from various YouTube channels, about what makes good stories. It’s a passion for me.
Since working at Boys Town as a family-teacher with my wife, I’ve been surrounded with stories. Having eight teenagers living in your home will do that. There’s heartbreaking stories. There’s stories of perseverance and breathtaking compassion from the adults who work here with these youth. There’s stories of incredible success, as well as stories of every kind of struggle you can imagine.
I constantly say that being a part of the stories of the girls that live with me is a tremendous privilege. When I take a step back and recognize my part in the stories these kids who come through my home, I am left humbled and hushed.
At the same time, I’ve wanted to trumpet the stories I encounter and am a part of out into the world. I’ve wanted to share all the accomplishments I get to see. The progress. The milestones. I’ve wanted to let the world know about the tears and sweat and sometimes even blood that goes into this job. I want to see just how these girls grow and mature in character and as young people.
But in many ways my hands are tied. Through privacy laws I can’t share any revealing information about the girls that live with me. I take photos of our girls all the time, but I can’t share any of them publicly.
Initially when we first came to Boys Town, the girls in my home did not want their photos taken. They didn’t like that they didn’t have control of the photo and that it wouldn’t have any Snapchat filters on it. They were pretty much only used to seeing selfies of themselves.
But after I would print some of the photos I took of them, they would realize that it wasn’t so bad. In fact, they looked pretty good, even without the filters. And so my house went from a place where people would groan about having their photo taken to asking me in excitement to take their photos.
My home now is filled with photos of the girls from various outings and trips around the Omaha area. And it encourages an environment of wanting to see more photos and to have more pro-social experiences outside the home.
Since coming here I’ve wanted to have a photo project that somehow showcased the girls in my home. And I just haven’t been able to think of anything that I would be able to share. Until recently.
I am planning to start a photography project with my girls, that instead of me trying to showcase them and their stories, I’d rather let them tell their own stories through photography.
I have two cameras that I use regularly. And so I have the ability to let my girls use one of them as I use the other. The idea is that I would teach them how to use a professional camera and then go on photowalks around the Omaha area and take photos together, learning more about the art and craft along the way.
I would use the experience to teach them a skill (photography), allow them to tell stories through their own photos, participate in a pro-social hobby, and build a positive relationship with me through a shared interest. I personally find photography to be extremely therapeutic. And I believe most of our girls would find it to be so as well.
I am at the extremely beginning stages of this idea. Well, I’m actually calling it an experiment so that way if it doesn’t work out like many of the other creative endeavors I’ve attempted, I won’t feel obligated to keep it going unnecessarily. But I have a good feeling about this being a success.
My idea for now is that I will edit and collate their photos. Together we’ll choose their best photos and I’ll create a blog to share the photos that I can.
I’ll print some of their best photos and let them hold them in their hands. I am a huge believer in printing photos to help us understand composition and the craft of photography in general. Plus it allows us to then frame them around our enormous apartment with plenty of wall space. I have a feeling they’d like to see photos they’ve taken hanging on the walls around the home. (I know I would!)
So I’ll create a blog for this project soon. For now I am going to call the project “At Risk Photos.” The girls in our home are considered to be “at-risk youth,” meaning that before coming to Boys Town they were at a high-risk of not transitioning into adulthood successfully.
I believe through pro-social activities and hobbies such as photography, these kids learn that you can find meaning and fun in things that contribute both to their own lives and to the world around them.
I hope you’ll follow along with us as I develop this idea further. 😜
More to come in the near future!