My name is Julia Sapir and I am graduate student in photography at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. While I am at UNM, I am interested in collaborating with homeschooled children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the creation of a series of photographs about children at play.
Before coming to New Mexico in August I was the director of The Mystic River Learning Center, a co-operative learning center for homeschoolers in Boston, MA. At the learning center I taught classes and workshops, organized excursions, and facilitated unstructured playtime for kids aged 5-14. Working with the Mystic River families was a deeply enriching experience for me that not only opened me up to the world of homeschooling but introduced me to a lot of amazing people.
What really struck me about the homeschooled and unschooled children I knew in Boston was how emboldened they were by their parents and community to make choices about their own lives and to express their feelings and opinions about the world. Unlike so many other socially constructed environments for children, the homeschool environment seems to promote the growth and well-being of the entire child both physically, socially, and emotionally. It is precisely this sense of freedom and self-awareness that the children possess that I am looking for in my proposed photography project.
I want to take pictures of homeschooled kids in their homes at "work" and at play. The way that I have gone about photographing children in the past is to engage them in games. I taught children's theater for many years and was heavily involved in theater myself as a child and so I know a lot of theater games all of which involve improvisation and tapping into the vast resources of a child's imagination. Once the children get started playing the games and have developed a certain level of comfort with me, with each other, and with themselves, we start coming up with scenes and scenarios for them to act out for the camera. These can range anywhere from memories that they have from their past, emotions they've felt over certain experiences, scenes from movies that they've seen, to just about anything that interests them. I have no pre-conceived notions about what they should act out. I merely serve as a prompt for getting their ideas flowing. This is as much an experiment for me as it is for them. I'm still in the learning stages of my career just like they are. What I'm really hoping to do with my photographs is tap into the essence of the imaginative world of childhood.
When I print the pictures I'm happy to share them with the parents and the kids and to make as many copies for them as they would like. On the subject of the picture making process and the actual photographs that this project will yield, it is of utmost importance to me to emphasize that I am wholly against the exploitation of children in anyway. I don't believe in putting the child in an uncomfortable position against his will, nor do I believe in using the photographs in anyway that will harm or compromise the child or his family.
That said, I was wondering if there were any homeschooled families in your group who would be interested in working with me on this project. It would entail a commitment over the course of a few days, weeks, or months depending on the family's level of interest. I would like to photograph the children in a setting that is familiar to them, preferably their home, a friend's home, or possibly a neighborhood playground or park.
I would really appreciate it if you could pass this message along and spread the word to the homeschooling community. I can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 615-9994.