An educational partnership with Magnum Foundation
and The New York Public Library's Columbus Branch in Hell's Kitchen
About the project
Twice a week, Magnum Foundation Fellows Alexis Lambrou, Pete Pin and Aleksandra Kononiuk gathered at the Columbus Branch Library to mentor high school students participating in the NYPL Innovation Labs to obtain needed school credit. The class positioned documentary photography as a learning vehicle for gaining 21st century technology skills and forming personal and collective narratives.
Students ventured to the streets to explore Hells Kitchen, home to the neighborhood branch library and their schools. They travel to and from the area everyday, but realized that never before had they really taken a close look at the surrounding neighborhood - at its people, its shops, its pulse. Our Kitchen is the exhibition of their discoveries.
Our Kitchen tells the story of the semester’s learning process. From making the pictures, to editing and sequencing, to curating the presentation, each student contributed to the group project with a specific role.
Modeled on the idea of a residency, this partnership with the NYPL’s Innovation Labs gives emerging practitioners the opportunity to be out in the field refining their own collaborative documentary processes. It was integral to the success of the pilot program that the NYPL students were learning from photographers that are in the midst of their own personal projects and seeking new ways to approach, access and represent the communities they immerse themselves in.
As a part of the partnership program, Magnum Foundation Fellows worked on their own documentary photography projects alongside the high school students. Alexis Lambrou and Pete Pin used the residency model to develop stories within the neighborhood, and bring the work into the classroom as a learning tool in group discussions and critiques. This opportunity is valuable for locally based documentary photographers that have a strong interest in collaborative and community-based work.
Alexis worked collaboratively with Sister Veritas, a young nun living in a convent in Hell's Kitchen. Alexis is collected material from multiple sources, including her own photographs, Sister Veritas’ writing, and student photographs. Alexis originally came to the convent seeking community subjects for the students to photograph, and through this fieldwork, became interested in combining and examining the variety of perspectives on one subject.
(Above) Alexis' photograph of Sister Veritas. Sister Veritas' writing about her dreams.
The Our Kitchen exhibition features both student photographs and snippets of text extracted from their reflective writing. Our Kitchen emphasizes the unique teen-perspective, as seen in the concise SMS-like language of their text.
The students developed their own narrative of the community and of their personal processes, and then a strategy for getting the story of Hell’s Kitchen and their photographic experience across to an audience.
Our City, Our Selves: Reading the City Through Words & Pictures
The Final exhibition culminated in a zine titled, Our City, Our Selves: Reading the City Through Words & Pictures. The zine features a mosaic portrait of each student made up of images they've taken over the course of the semester, a self-selected image with accompanying, reflective text.
How the NYPL Uses Photography to Help Students Graduate Metro’s coverage of the event and NYPL-Magnum Foundation partnership program