On Sept. 26, 19 middle and high school students from across District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) gathered with their families at the Pulitzer Center to have their work celebrated at a special reception.
These students were finalists from the 2nd installment of the DCPS Study Abroad Photo Contest, which was designed by Pulitzer Center and the Global Studies department at DCPS to celebrate photography by students participating in the DCPS Study Abroad program. The program, which is now entering its third year, provides 8th and 11th grade students in DCPS the opportunity to travel locally and abroad. This year, nearly 400 students traveled abroad to over one dozen cities to study language and culture. Before their departure at the beginning of the summer, students met with Pulitzer Center staff and journalists to review techniques for taking captivating photographs and pairing them with informative and insightful captions. The curriculum utilizes reporting from Pulitzer Center-supported projects like the Out of Eden Walk and Everyday Africa.
Upon returning from their study abroad locations, students were then challenged to submit some of the photographs they took, and the meaningful captions that accompany them, to the Pulitzer Center for consideration. The Pulitzer Center received an increase in submissions from last year, but was able to narrow the submissions down to 27 finalists.
At the reception for finalists, students connected with other peers who had studied abroad and shared the thought processes and experiences behind their photographs. Students then heard from photojournalist Peter DiCampo, co-founder of the viral Instagram feed Everyday Africa. During his presentation, students learned that DiCampo also discovered photojournalism as a study abroad participant. DiCampo described how he was able to transform his experiences into powerful photos that show the varied experiences of people within a nation beyond the sensational headlines and labels that are usually assigned to them. These experiences combined with his work as a photojournalist led to him co-create the Everyday Africa Instagram feed, which is dedicated to depicting everyday life in the continent.
This concept of revealing the different realities and experiences to the viewer resonated with participants like Duke Ellington School of the Arts student Ahmad Allen, who studied abroad in France. While in France, Allen took a picture that focused on a toy Eiffel Tower while the real Eiffel Tower was depicted out of focus a few feet behind. This purposeful arrangement and his caption, which read, "Sometimes we waste time studying inauthentic things, not realizing we have the work right in front of us," allowed Allen to emphasize to his audience that, "not everything we see is what we should believe in." During the reception he gave more background on his photo and said, "We spend so much time looking at the fake things and not really enjoying the realness of the moment."
Allen's work, and the exceptional work of 10 of the finalists, can be found in the slideshow above this article. Below are the names of all 27 finalists, who were selected by Pulitzer Center staff and their work can be viewed here.
2017 DCPS Study Abroad Photography Contest Finalists:
Troy Williams, Dunbar HS
Anthony Robinson, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Ally Han, School without Walls
Liam Kennedy, Alice Deal MS
Ahmad Allen, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Dearra Hart, Eastern Senior HS
Perpetua Nkem, Bell Multicultural HS
Damaris Medina, District of Columbia International
Sydney Hill, McKinley Technology HS
Emilia Majersik, Wilson HS
Nakya Carethers, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Ying Chen, School without Walls
Sierra Lewter, Benjamin Banneker Academic HS
Betelhem Assefa, McKinley Technology HS
Dwayne Fralin, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Dianna Lazo, McKinley Tech HS
Kendall Barratt, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Ziaire Beckham, Woodrow Wilson HS
Nishi Mehta, Hardy MS
Lamrot Jinfessa, Raymond Education Campus
Michelle Vasquez, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Dorothy Francis, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Ray Vincent De Jesus, Benjamin Banneker Academic HS
Kaniz Fatema, Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Amani Green, Thurgood Marshall Academy