For many photographers, there is a seminal moment in their past when photography captured their imagination. I had a 110 film camera when I was very young, but for me things changed when a neighbor gathered a few kids together on a Saturday morning and showed us how to use a light meter and a SLR camera.
The love affair was, well, instant.
I immediately understood that my Instamatic camera was barely scratching the surface of what photography was and could be. Suddenly, I was exposed to apertures, shutter speeds, ISO and the mathematical connections between the two made me think technically about a creative process.
The same was true of my exposure to music. I hated practicing and classical music initially bored me, but when I had the opportunity to learn how to play the theme from The Pink Panther on the piano, things changed. I started figuring out how to play things by ear, and expanded my musical vocabulary.
Later, when I started playing chamber music on the cello, I realized that I need to have an opinion and interpretation about a piece. I had to explain to other musicians how I thought music should be phrased.
In high school, I started building sets in the theatre. I had no interest in acting, but for me, designing, then building a set with a team stretched my imagination and built my confidence.
In all these cases, exposure to the arts helped mold me into who I am today. The arts have provided the opportunity to be creative, but also exercised my problem solving, socialization, leadership and so much more. The arts made me a more complete human. It helped occupy my time and mind.
But I am fortunate because my parents supported these artistic endeavors both financially and emotionally. This is not the case for many kids in the inner cities.
Study after study supports the significant benefits to low socioeconomic students with prolonged exposure to the arts. They show more positive outcomes than their non-exposed peers. They show higher civic engagement. And at-risk teens with exposure to the arts show achievement levels closer to the general population. Yet, despite the evidence, the arts in many inner city public schools are victims of budget cuts and educational policies that emphasize testing.
In other words, if you care about making productive citizens in society out of the disadvantaged, give them an arts education.
This month, PhotoShelter has joined forces with a number of fantastic photo companies for our #TogsGiveBack campaign. For your donation of as little as $25, you get some really nice discounts on gear and services – and that donation supports the Urban Arts Partnership, a 501(c)3 organization that helps underserved public school students get an art-integrated education.
There are many different ways to spend your money and your time. This one is easy. Let’s help the next generation to be inspired by the arts like we were. Pay it forward by giving back.