What is Photo Novella ?


"Photo Novella" is a process in which photographic images are used to initiate dialogue that goes beyond simply describing the pictures at hand to allow for more self-reflective and critical interpretations on behalf of the photographers themselves as well as their peers. As such, the process is not only designed to stimulate interest and skill development in photography, but also to encourage participants to use the images they create as a means of expressing how they feel about themselves and the community in which they live.

With this in mind, the C.J. Peete Youth Club Photo Novella Project began in the Fall of 1998 when 35 disposable cameras were passed out to kids in the club ranging in age from 9 to 18 years old. These adolescents were given the simple instruction to go out and take pictures that highlighted "the good, the bad, and the ugly" things about living in their neighborhood as seen from their own perspective. Additionally, the children were told to be respectful of their subjects (and their own safety) by avoiding pictures that singled out individuals as doing bad things. Instead, they were asked to be creative in finding ways that would capture the negative consequences of such behavior without attaching a face to it that might be recognized.

As illustrated by the display, taking the pictures was only half of the process. After the pictures had been developed, the participants were assembled into small groups and asked to give their reactions to the pictures that they and their peers had taken. With their responses to the questions "What do you think of this picture?" and "Why?" the participants in the exercise got the chance to voice their individual opinions about the community they live in. More importantly, through the discussions that have followed (and in many ways are just beginning), they have had the opportunity to discover what their own role as a group might be in addressing the issues that they worked to bring to light.