Learning to See: Group Photographic Collaborations Exploring Individual Artistry and Community Culture

Nancy Grace Horton's Learning to See programs are school and community participatory projects that simultaneously teach the history and art of photography and document local events, traditions, neighborhoods or can be self explorations for each student. Learning To See programs take place over several days, include from a dozen to hundreds of students, and involve participants in learning new skills, exploring their environments, and appreciating their culture.During the programs, individual participants gain new artistic skills as they learn to look at their world through the lens of a camera or using history methods of image making. When viewed as a whole, the combined images become a photographic record of a community's environment and culture that is discussed by the participants and displayed to the public in exhibits and books. Learning to See projects have been conducted since 2001 both locally, (Concord Monitor-Better than homework: Hopkinton students snap pictures of their daily lives) (Concord Monitor- Portsmouth Photographer begins Residency)(Spotlight -Capturing Sights of Interest/Profile, Herald -Portsmouth Middle School Kids Get the Picture), as well as internationally, (Recent Learning to See project in Mexico,Banderas News.).

Hands-on Learning and Community Participation

Learning to See projects begin with the teaching of photographic techniques, then involve students in capturing, discussing and displaying their images. With simple instruction, the students only need encouragement to explore their own ideas and to be confident in approaching their subjects. Each student (typically young people and seniors) employs their new skills to explore and engage with their environment. Using a camera opens doors and opens one's eyes to people and places and gives the student license to explore their curiosity. As they document their interests, a unique and valuable record emerges of their families, their communities, and their culture.

Multi-disciplinary collaborations

Some Learning to See projects include collaborations with other artists and organizations, and the result is that educational institutions, local businesses, and other artists join the budding photographers to create multi-disciplinary pieces and events to tell the important stories of a community. For instance, in a recent Learning to See project in rural Mexico, the child photographers (none of whom had ever used a camera or studied English before) employed their photos to learn English words by labeling and discussing their subjects with their school teacher and local adult volunteers. This project became the foundation for volunteer-led English classes at the elementary school.