Grand Street Settlement Program


On Friday, I visited the Grand Street Settlement Program at Rutgers Community Center on 200 Madison Street. The students were at the program all day, every day, and they would attend various activities throughout the day, with the JHP photography class being one of the activities. The class I visited had a total of around 20 middle school aged students, but because some students had opted to participate in a different activity that day, instructors Luis and Farah led a class of around 10 students. When the students walked into the room, they sat down and waited eagerly to receive their cameras, with one student even exclaiming, "Can we get the cameras already?" After Farah and I had distributed the cameras to each student, they made sure that their cameras had batteries and were fully charged. Once Luis arrived, we led the students outside with the help of staff member Amy. We walked around various parts of Chinatown including Pell Street, Doyers Street, Pike Street and Chatham Square, all as part of their project of documenting the 'Lower East Side' through the decades. I enjoyed going along with the students because I was able to see many parts of Chinatown that I had not seen before. My favorite location was Doyers & Pell St because the floor had so many colorful designs, complementing the colorful stores there.

It was the third week of the six week long program, so the students had been familiar with how to use the camera. Since the class was focused on storytelling rather than the technical aspects of photography, most students shot using the automatic setting. The focus for this week was to shoot using bird's eye view and worm's eye view. As we walked around the blocks of Chinatown, students knelt down low to take close up photos of puddles, pointed their cameras upward to take photos of the Manhattan Bridge, or stood up on a higher platform to take landscape shots of Chinatown. The instructors gave suggestions to students of what and how they should take their photos. The students seemed to very much enjoy going around on these short field trips because they were able to take pictures of anything they wanted to: their peers, trees, other people, etc. The class had gone out shooting for the first two weeks and will be going out once more for the fourth week. During the fifth and sixth week of the program, the students will be editing their photos and completing their project, a monopoly board of the many locations they had visited and taken pictures of.  


Jessica Wanamaker