Review: Street photography by local students shows fresh perspectives on community life

Syracuse student photographers show budding talent in companion photography exhibition to Helen Levitt's "In The Street."

The Everson Museum of Art’s photography exhibition, “The Way I See It,” is an unexpected and utterly delightful vision of Syracuse and its youth community. 


Housed in the downstairs galleries, the exhibition features 31 photographs taken by middle school students from Edward Smith School, South West Community Center and Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central. Guided by student mentors from SU’s Photography and Literacy Project (PAL), the youngsters were given access to cameras, photo editing lessons as well as lessons on photography's historical roots. The students worked to produce a photo that perfectly captured their unique story and voice, with subjects ranging from friends and family members to pets, streetscapes and everyday objects.

Photo: Anna Gibertini
Student Helena Giner photographed the close-up details on a staple-covered telephone pole.


Although the artists are young, they have budding talent as professional photographers. Each photo is vibrant, evocative and fresh. Color predominates the selection, although there are a few black and white photographs. 


Notable photos by students Helena Giner, Aniya Corgwell, Freddy Butler and Kemet Rivkin-Denham El surrounded the gallery. Giner’s color photo of a telephone pole riddled with staples evokes texture. It feels as if you could run your hand down the pole and touch the sunbaked pieces of metal. Corgwell expertly uses sunlight reflecting off the windshield of a red car and a lounging puppy on the hood to conjure the dogs day of summer. In contrast to these happier shots, Butler’s photo of two children sitting on the front stoop of a house is unnerving, as the image evokes a sense that terrible news to come from within as they sit beside each other, both looking to the ground, mouths closed. Finally, Rivkin-Denham El’s photo of a man midthrow embodies kinetic energy. The blurriness of his arms and the swing of his necklace echo the frenetic and kaleidoscopic walls of graffiti behind him.


"The Way I See It" is a companion to, and inspired by, the museum’s current and most prestigious exhibition, “Helen Levitt: In The Street.” Levitt is one of America’s most prolific and celebrated photographers. She is credited with spearheading the contemporary street photography movement. Levitt began taking photos in the late 1930s and continued until her death in 2009. Critics and fans praised Levitt’s uncanny ability to simultaneously be absent and present in her photographs. While certainly the photos focus on the anonymous day to day life of strangers, Levitt’s warm and nonjudgmental attitude towards her subjects permeates each picture. While she mainly shot in black and white, her work in color is equally praised. 


Check out The Everson Museum’s website for hours, pricing and parking information. “The Way I See It” closed on Sunday, Feb. 28. “Helen Levitt: In The Street” will be up until May 8. 

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