News Release: Events, Teaching

Dec. 8,  2009

Photo Class Trains Lens on City of Refuge

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From Emory Report

When junior Kelsey Krzyston learned that her Photography II class would be focusing their fall semester assignments on City of Refuge, an Atlanta social service organization, she was excited about the prospect of getting off campus to use her love of photography to benefit people in her community.

“Our photographs offer insight into all the good work that City of Refuge is doing, as well as raise awareness about the impact of the race and class inequities that exist in Atlanta,” says Krzyston. “But I am receiving as much as I give, because this class has provided role models and career insight about how I can combine photography and medicine.”

City of Refuge provides food, clothing, shelter, job training and placement, housing and life skills to those in need. Funded by the Emory Coca-Cola Artist in Residence Program, the collaboration between the Visual Arts Department’s Photography II class and City of Refuge is a new direction in interdisciplinary photography studies initiated by Associate Professor Jason Francisco that puts students into the community where they can make connections while making pictures.

“The students have had to confront how they see people — to look beyond their socioeconomic status to see their humanity — and to move beyond the idea that they are separate from us,” says Laura Noel, who teaches Photography II. “We spend a lot of time talking about the ethics of how to portray someone, and how to earn the trust of our subjects that we will tell their stories accurately and compassionately.”

“I’ve spent hours talking with and photographing a woman who told me that no one ever takes the time to get to know her like that,” explains Kirby Liu, a junior in the class. “I think it’s great how art can give you a boundary to push, and a reason to look more closely at a person or situation.”

In addition to an upcoming exhibition of the students’ work at the Visual Arts Building in 2010, City of Refuge will install some of the student photographs permanently within their meeting and common spaces, as well as use them for outreach, fundraising and education.

“Martin Luther King Jr. said that we are all woven together into a single garment of destiny, and this collaboration embodies the spirit of his words in the best possible way,” says Tony Johns, director of community involvement at City of Refuge. “The pictures allow the people we serve to express themselves beyond the parameters of their daily lives. In turn, the students receive transformative knowledge about the world around them and hopefully become advocates for City of Refuge, which can play a significant role in bringing justice to the poor.”

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