(Video produced by Evey Wilson)
"Everyday DC," a student photojournalism exhibit organized by the Pulitzer Center in conjunction with District of Columbia Public Schools, kicked off on Wedneday evening with an opening reception that was attended by school faculty, parents, students, and other public visitors.
The exhibition visualizes daily life in Washington, DC, through the eyes of over 80 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from seven DC public middle schools that represent all four quadrants of the city. It is funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
It is a culmination of a multi-week photojournalism unit designed by the visual arts department at DCPS, its visual arts educators, and the Pulitzer Center. It draws inspiration from the Everyday Africa project, produced by journalists Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill. The project is supported by the Pulitzer Center and focuses on demonstrating an accurate representation of the everyday life of majority of Africans. It is a response to the common media portrayal of the African continent as a place consumed by war, poverty, and disease.
The "Everyday DC" project also involves the participation of three student curators, who meticulously chose the photographs that would be put up in the exhibition, divided these photographs into different themes, and were engaged in the entire process.
Curators learned about the responsiblities that come with curating, and described the process as "hard, but fun." They were also exposed to the unique perspectives that people have of the District. "Many people have different points of view of their world, and it was interesting to be able to see and understand them," said Gisela Clausen-Diaz, a student curator from Oyster-Adams Bilingual School.
Sylvie Alexander, another student curator from Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, believes that this exhibition will help people view DC differently. "I feel like the people who come and see this, even if they're tourists, will know that for the people who live here, DC is not just about monuments, the President, and famous buildings. It's about their daily life," she said.
Stephanie Batres, an eighth grader from Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, said that the working on "Everyday DC" started as an education activity, but turned into something she truly enjoyed. "I learned that there are a lot of beautiful places that I never really looked at because I would always be rushing past them, but with this project, I got to see what the real DC is, and actually experience it," she said.
Parents of photographers and curators were impressed by the quality of work of their children. "Everything looks really impressive and I love how engaged my daughter has been by the whole process. I think it's really great to empower kids like this and to get them involved in the creative process," said Neil de Bhaile, father of Eimer de Bhaile, who was one of the student curators. He added that thinking about art and learning to showcase and present it is a better way for students to learn than to just passively consume media.
Nathan Diamond, Director of Arts at DC Public Schools, agrees: "Just the opportunity to see their work up like this lifts up their voice and lets them know that the work they do is not just about taking pictures, but it's much wider than that, and it has much more significance than that. I think the fact that the arts community and the Pulitzer Center is honoring them for the work is a big step in who they think they are and what they think they can do."