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City's Life, And Lacks, Portrayed

Atheneum Showcases Teenagers' Photographs After Six Weeks Of Observing And Shooting

August 1, 2006
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer

A group of Connecticut teenagers explored Hartford through the lenses of their cameras this summer and will share their perceptions of the capital city in an exhibit entitled "Stay! Perspectives of Hartford."

Organized by The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum, the six-week neighborhood studio project brought together 10 teens from the Greater Hartford area to visit the city's neighborhoods and to learn about photography and how exhibits are created and installed. The program was funded by a grant from the Greater Hartford Arts Council.

"I think it was really successful," said Allen Phillips, the Wadsworth's collection imaging manager, who guided the students through the program along with photographer John Groo. "They didn't come with an idea of how a photo should be or what it should look like, so it gave them the freedom to be really creative."

The photos reflect the sometimes conflicting impressions students formed during their visits to sites that included the Mark Twain House, Constitution Plaza, Adriaen's Landing, the North End and the West End.

For example, many of the 40 photos in the exhibit, which opens Thursday at the Atheneum, contain images of people walking away from the camera, sitting alone or leaving the scene. In her photo "Empty Hallway," 17-year-old Jessica Salmon's depicts a woman climbing a staircase at the Mark Twain House. The black-and-white photo is taken at an angle, making it look a bit off-kilter.

"I wanted to know why this museum was so empty. It should be full of people," said Salmon, who lives in Hartford. "I do a lot of sports so I don't really get any time to see all of Hartford. It's emptiness surprised me - the only time I saw people is when they are downtown working or leaving to go home."

Hartford resident Sasha Agins' photo, "In the 29th Year of her Age," depicts a crumbled gravestone in the city's Ancient Burial Ground.

"I compared it to how Hartford's identity has crumbled away, how its social scene has crumbled," said Sasha, who is 14. "I think that urban renewal made Hartford crumble. It was split up according to socio-economic status...When you split something up like that, it loses its life."

Not all the pictures in the exhibit express solitude and emptiness. Many are full of color and motion and include water and nature scenes, as well as people eating, frolicking or congregating.

"We encouraged them to look at things from an unusual perspective," said photographer John Groo, who also directed the program. "There were just some things that happened that were unexpected."

An unexpected but "happy mistake" occurred when 17-year-old Vicky Bruno used a slow shutter speed on her camera to create a blurred but vibrant image of the Bushnell Park Carousel in her photo "Distorted Momentum."

"I wanted to get a shot of motion," said Bruno. "It represents Hartford and how it's constantly in motion, moving all the time."

Bruno, who lives in South Windsor, said she knew little about Hartford before participating in the program.

"I never really got to know the city. It was just something to pass by or drive through," she said. "People need to start coming here and find out what a great place it is. The city should be built for people, not just for business."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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