Building Bridges, Crossing Boundaries

Latino Children Capture their Community in Pictures

The work of Latino schoolchildren who photographically documented what was important to them about their lives, community and culture will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at the Indiana Historical Society. The exhibition will include more than 100 of their images, both candid and posed, showing family, friends, school life, religious practice and art.

Students from Indianapolis’s George Washington Middle School, Willard J. Gambold Middle School and Northwest High School took part. They attended a workshop led by Art Silva, a Latino photographer, who taught them the basics of photographic technique and composition and discussed with them how to use photography as a vehicle for storytelling and artistic expression. They then received disposable cameras and went on assignment. Silva developed the film, then each student selected his or her best photograph and framed it in preparation for exhibition. The goal of the project was to give these young Latino immigrants a better understanding of their new environment and help the larger community see and understand more clearly the nature of their lives and culture.

The Polis Center at Indiana University­Purdue University at Indianapolis developed the concept for the project as part of its 2001 Spirit and Place Festival, an annual event held “to create opportunities for the public to explore the relationship among community, creativity, environment and the civic values that shape Central Indiana.” Fiesta, Inc. and the Indianapolis public school system also collaborated on the idea. The photographs were first displayed at the Indiana State Capitol in November 2001.

The Indiana Historical Society continued to work with people involved in the original concept and added many new photographs, captions and short stories written in English and Spanish by the student photographers. The photographs sit at the core of the exhibition and are augmented with information about the growing Latino population in both Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.