Each year since 2017, the Pulitzer Center looks forward to the annual Everyday DC photography exhibition at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is the culmination of a visual arts curriculum co-written by the Pulitzer Center and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) that asks middle school students across the District to think about media representation and stereotyping — of faraway places and of their own city — and then to use photojournalism skills to share images that more accurately represent their everyday lives in the District. It is inspired by the Everyday Africa project, which was created by Center grantees Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s in-person exhibition was canceled. However, the Pulitzer Center partnered with DCPS, and seven public middle schools across Washington D.C. despite the challenges that this year presented, to implement The Everyday DC photojournalism curriculum. The result is the fifth annual Everyday DC exhibition, a virtual photography exhibit that visualizes the everyday lives of middle school students as they navigate virtual learning and the many other challenges and joys in their lives. Thirteen 8th grade visual arts students from Brookland Middle School supported the curation of the exhibition, included above. When asked what they hoped viewers would learn from viewing the images, they wrote the following:
I want them to see the creativity of D.C. kids.
I want them to know that D.C has natural beauty that needs to be noticed and appreciated.
I want them to think about the pictures in depth because the beauty of D.C. is so abundant.
I want them to think differently of DC and to know that D.C. is full of different lifestyles and cultures.
I want viewers to think about the buildings and landmarks in D.C. which make up the city.
Click here to view the virtual gallery walls curated by students from Brookland Middle School.
Read on to learn more about how DCPS students and teachers embarked on the Everyday DC project this year, how several Everyday DC photos contributed to the District’s first virtual reality art showcase, and how this year’s student curators ultimately created virtual walls inspired by this year’s photos. Photos are also organized by school as part of digital slideshows included above.
Everyday DC in the Virtual ClassroomIn seven middle schools across Washington D.C., over 150 students explored the curriculum with the support of their visual arts teachers, Center staff, and journalist-grantees throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Many classes connected to Pulitzer Center-supported photojournalists for virtual photojournalism workshops. Others connected virtually to Center staff and their teachers to practice media literacy, caption-writing, and curation skills. Ultimately, students set out into their communities with cameras in hand to capture images that depict everyday life in the District. Together, their images capture life in their city and dispel pervasive misrepresentations of their communities.
This year's images are unique as many reflect the ways in which our lives have been altered due to the coronavirus pandemic. From remote schooling to life in quarantine - this year’s student images captured a unique time in history. These images serve as a visual representation of daily life during a global pandemic as seen through the eyes of students. They also showcase the natural, cultural, and architectural beauty across the district. Below, you will find images taken by students from seven Washington D.C. middle schools. With this virtual gallery, we hope that the artistry and narratives of Washington, D.C.’s middle school students can remain more accessible than ever.
“Rep My City!” Virtual Reality Showcase In lieu of an exhibition this year, a selection of student images were shared as part of the virtual reality public showcase titled “Rep My City!” The showcase, developed by Hirshhorn X GENESIS + DCPS, challenged students to share their experiences of DC life through art and interactive technology. This year’s virtual reality exhibition focused on empowering students and reimagining the future of arts education in DC. Using a virtual reality exhibition space created by a production team led by Hirschhorn’s Art Lab, Genesis Steam, and DCPS students, student curators designed and curated virtual 3D exhibition rooms that showcased various students’ works in 2D and 3D. Artwork, photographs, murals, and performances from 118 schools, 30,000 students from all 8 wards of Washington DC were showcased. Viewers entered the virtual space as an avatar to view the interactive virtual exhibition.
Each of the seven participating middle schools submitted photos, compiled in presentations at the links below. These images represent a selection of hundreds of images composed by D.C. public middle school students as part of the Everyday DC cornerstone unit.
Everyday DC was inspired by Everyday Africa, an Instagram page started by photojournalists Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill, also Pulitzer Center grantees. DiCampo and Merrill were on assignment in Cote d’Ivoire covering the aftermath of a civil war when they noticed their images of the country, and of the African continent, that made it back to U.S. media outlets were representing only a part of what they experienced living there. So on Instagram, they created Everyday Africa (@everydayafrica) to counteract these pervasive narratives with images of everyday life across the continent’s 54 countries.
The Everyday DC curriculum, broken down into seven lesson plans, can be found here in its entirety . The Pulitzer Center encourages visual arts educators anywhere to consider adopting the curriculum — and encourage students to consider and promote their own narratives about their communities in the process. For more information on how to bring this project to your school and/or district, contact [email protected].