October 13, 2010
LOS ANGELES—Indian photographer Sudharak Olwe joins the J. Paul Getty Museum this fall to work with young people on two photography projects inspired by the Getty's exhibition Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography Since the Sixties, currently on view until November 14, 2010.
Olwe works in the documentary tradition established by many of the photographers featured in Engaged Observers. He has published photographic essays on subjects such as sanitation workers and prostitutes in Mumbai, India, and midwifery in Jharkhand, an eastern state of India.
"I'm delighted to have this opportunity to work with both high school and college students at the Getty," says Olwe. "It will be rewarding to help students understand documentary photography and motivate them to create their own photographs."
Olwe will work with Venice High School students on a project called Now See Here, in which students will document the social issues that affect their lives.
The high school project is part of Community Photoworks, an annual program initiated in 2005 by the Getty Museum and 826LA, a non-profit writing/tutoring center dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills. Community Photoworks introduces Los Angeles students to the art of photography through workshops and discussions with artists and in-classroom activities. The culmination of this year's project will be an exhibition of the students' work at The Social and Public Art Resource Center in Venice (SPARC) from November 29 to December 3, 2010. An opening event will take place at SPARC on Monday, November 29, from 7pm-9pm.
"Community Photoworks is designed to help students build critical looking skills through the medium of photography, and, ultimately, raise their awareness of the conscious choices people make in the creation of visual culture," explains Ami Davis, the Getty Museum's education specialist for school programs. As part of the program, the Getty provides lesson plans, art supplies, bus transportation, and training for staff and teachers.
Over the course of the project, the students will study photography, both in their English class at Venice High School and at the Getty Museum. At the Getty Center, they will meet with Olwe, who will lead them in a Q&A session and an in-depth discussion about photo techniques and tips followed by a tour of the exhibition. The students will then be given their assignment of identifying a cause to promote through their own photography.
The assignment will encourage students to consider the various social issues represented in the exhibition and think about how these and other issues affect their lives. Once they have identified an issue that they feel strongly about, students will be asked to consider the subject of their photograph and the techniques they will use to engage and sway their viewers. After choosing a photograph, students will write a persuasive statement about their selected social issue, utilizing persuasive writing techniques learned in the classroom.
Julius Diaz Panoriñgan, Director of Education for 826LA, adds, "Part of 826LA's goal of helping students become better writers is to enhance the understanding of writing's importance to various disciplines. Community Photoworks showcases the relationship between the visual arts, language and writing—so it's an ideal forum for students to develop their abilities across all these fields." 826LA is supporting the production of a catalogue of the students' photography and written work for distribution at the exhibition.
The Getty will launch an online exhibition of the student's work on the Getty Web site (www.getty.edu), including the student-produced images and written work, as well as information on the project and links to individual objects in the Getty's collection. The site is expected to launch by December 2010.
In addition to his work with high school students, Olwe will work with college students as part of another Getty program, Engaged Student Observers, for students enrolled in photojournalism courses at College of the Canyons, East Los Angeles College, Pierce College, and Santa Monica College. During the two-week program, students will engage in their own documentary photography project.
"This program will encourage students to explore a range of themes and techniques that are typically represented in documentary photography," says Peter Tokofsky, education specialist at the J. Paul Getty Museum. "I can't think of a better way to expose these students to the genre than with an accomplished documentary photographer such as Sudharak Olwe."
Also inspired by the exhibition Engaged Observers, the program consists of a workshop on photography and social documentation.
Olwe will also take the students throughout Los Angeles to create photographic documents of the city. To link their project to issues raised in the exhibition, the colleges have identified four themes for the students to focus their work: identity, conflict, labor, and environment.
Some of the students' works will be presented in a gallery on the Getty's website in early 2011.
About Sudharak Olwe
Over the past 20 years Sudharak Olwe has contributed photographic essays to India's leading publications while also working for the Times of India in Mumbai during much of this time. He has exhibited work on various social issues in India, Bangladesh, Sweden, Portugal, Holland, the United States, and Japan. In 1999-2000 he was the recipient of the Media Fellowship from the National Foundation for India. The following year, Olwe was the only Indian photographer included in World Press Photo Exhibition in Amsterdam, where his stories on gender and the environment were shown. In 2005 he received the All Roads Photographers Award from National Geographic, which featured an exhibition of his work about the street workers of Mumbai.
Olwe currently heads the Photography Promotion Trust (PPT) in Mumbai, India. PPT aims to support, showcase, and encourage the use of photography as a tool for social change. The Trust promotes photography as a tool to empower disadvantaged and marginalized youths and provide a platform to photographers interested in telling stories through photography. PPT is committed to working toward advancing social documentary photography that gives voice to the human condition in such a way that it inspires and enables positive change.
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