COLUMBIA — Thirty bodies crowded into Ragtag Cinemacafé. Some sat on the couches, some snuck bites of cookies and some looked at pictures.
But no one really seemed to mind the cramped quarters, even when the juice and fruit snacks began to spill.
Children made up half of the crowd at the second New Media Network photography exhibit. The exhibit represents the result of eight weeks of photography and software workshops and after-school lessons held at the “Blind” Boone Center and taught by New Media Network, a volunteer group that teaches media basics to children.
Participants were 11 First Ward children, and New Media representatives coached them through the basics of photography and audio recordings. Each child showed three pictures in the exhibit.
New Media chose to have the First Ward participate because of the negative stereotypes associated with the ward, New Media Network co-directors Holly Hobbs and Robbin Williams said.
“There’s a lot of talk, negative press, negative publicity about gangs, drugs and violence.” Hobbs said. “We wanted to work against the stereotypes.”
The audio and pictures the children created are telling, Williams said.
The audio, mixed with local hip-hop music and played with a photo slide show, consists of conversations with family, tutors and friends.
“You listen later and realize what people are influenced by,” he said.
The response from the audience was positive, and many received insight into the lives of First Ward children.
“It’s proof that it’s not the equipment. It’s the eye,” attendee Catherine Parke said.
She pointed to a picture of a little girl titled “Tanascha.”
“In this picture, I see integrity, personality and a bit of mystery. I see a human being fully created,” Parke said.
The New Media Network’s project also introduced children to the concepts of analogies and symbolism.
A picture of an emptied pool in a desolate park is named “Pink.”
Despite its success so far, the program could use donations, Hobbs said.
The start-up donation by the Downtown Optimist Club helped buy the current cameras, and individual donations of computers and money helped the program along, she said.
Hobbs said the program still needs newer computers, especially Macs, and digital cameras.
“Since we’re dealing with digital media, we need state-of-the-art technology,” Williams said.
If someone donated a few more computers, he said, New Media could work with more children.
This shows where the future of Columbia is headed, he said.