Teen Day at The FENCE


Teen Day at The Fence, organized by Photoville, was an educational day for students from photography based organizations such as the Bronx Documentary Center, International Center of Photography, LGBT Center and Just Arts. JHP was also invited to the event because of our partnership with Photoville. The event started with pizza and snacks, and then the students split up into various groups to have a guided tour of The Fence. Jessica Bal, an education associate at Photoville, led the group I was in of about 10 other students. There were also around 10 photographers present at the site to talk about their works that were displayed on the fence.

The tour started with Griselda San Martin speaking about her project "The Wall," a series about Friendship Park, a stretch of land on the US-Mexico border where a metal fence separates families. It is a commentary on the anti-immigration sentiments that are prevalent throughout America. Other photographers whose work attempt to raise awareness for a certain cause include Sara Bennett, Janet Homes, and Robert Harding Pittman. Bennett, a previous defense attorney, created a series called "Life After Life in Prison: The Bedroom Project." Over the course of the past four years, she met several women who had been previously incarcerated and through this project, she connected with many of them, even accompanying them to their job interviews. Bennett's project focuses on former prison inmates in their bedrooms to portray these women as individuals rather than people who society see as outcasts. From her past career working as a defense attorney for the wrongly convicted, she now hopes to use her photography to "shed light on the pointlessness of extremely long sentences and arbitrary parole denials." In a similar manner of advocacy, Holmes hopes to use her series of chickens in homes to comment on human exploitation of animals, where dogs and cats are treated as individuals while chickens and cattle are treated as food. Pittman focuses his project "CoalScapes" on how the coal mining industry has affected not only the environment but also various families who have lost their homes because of the industry. It is a commentary on the environmental and human costs of extraction of energy resources.

Thomas Holton's series "The Lams of Ludlow Street" focuses on the theme of family. What started as an attempt to connect to his Chinese roots by exploring the stereotypical aspects of Chinatown became a 13 year long project about the Lam family who live on Ludlow Street. He became a close family friend and an uncle figure. He would pick up the children from school, visit them after school, and stay for dinner. He spent most of his time with the youngest girl, Cindy, so the photos on the fence are a series about her and the difficulties of navigating the world as a young adult. 

Other photographers including Unhee Park, Brooke Didinato, and David Williams used photography to capture a certain feeling. Park visited homes that she found from the website Homestay Network and used photography to portray the unsettling feelings of being in a home without a host. Didinato uses Freud as inspiration for her photography, portraying surroundings that are familiar but also uncanny. For an ongoing project called "State Fares," Williams travels the country and photographs food at state fairs, which are often accompanied with the feeling of nostalgia. 

I enjoyed the tour of The Fence a lot, especially since I was able to meet the photographers and hear where they get their inspiration for their photos. I noticed a lot of them used photography as a way of connecting with other people, and several of them also described photography as a way of getting them out of the house and exploring the world. It was particularly interesting that several of these photographers originally had different careers but they were able to take experiences from their previous jobs and transform that into a coherent body of photographic work that explored something they are passionate about. 

Photos by Lucy Qu

Jessica Wanamaker