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Mi Pueblo: The Children’s Pozos Project

APRIL 4 - MAY 9, 2008
MI PUEBLO: The Children’s Pozos Project

Photographs and Monotypes by Children of Mineral de Pozos, Mexico

The Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection, part of The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos, exhibited Mi pueblo: The Pozos Children’s Project from April 4 through May 9, 2008, on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library. Presenting over 80 works by the children of Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato, Mexico, the show is part of an artistic and educational outreach project directed by renowned photographer and teacher Geoff Winningham and sponsored by The Jung Center in Houston.

Winningham, his wife, printmaker Janice Freeman, and eight Rice University students traveled to Pozos—where Winningham and Freeman have a home and studios—to teach local children basic photography and darkroom skills. The children, mostly between nine and sixteen years old, were given plastic Holga cameras and film to photograph their surroundings, then were taught traditional darkroom skills. They also learned basic printmaking and created monotype prints as well as photographic prints. There are over 70 photographs and 15 monotypes in the show.

The six-month project extended over the course of two trips, one in October of 2007 and one in November, but according to Winningham, it wasn’t until the second trip that the children’s images began to emerge as art:

After passing out cameras and a few pointers—look at your subject from all angles, get close, and look for good light—we asked the kids to ‘show us the town,’ to take us to every part of Pozos and the surrounding countryside in search of good pictures…. It wasn’t until the second trip, in November, that good photographs began to appear regularly on the contact sheets. In October, there had been a great deal of positive energy, long hours in the darkroom, but many mistakes as well…. In November, we began showing the kids books and slides of great photographers’ work. We talked a bit about strong composition, about timing, and about the importance of waiting for things to happen in front of the camera. By the end of that second trip, we could see from the contact sheets that six or eight of the kids were showing real talent for photography. They were seeing and capturing not just things, but pictures of things.

The exhibit opened in March at The Jung Center as part of the city-wide FotoFest celebration in Houston. The project was made possible by funding from Abrams, Scott & Bickley, LLP, King & Spalding, LLP, Carolyn Grant Fay, and Sheila and Isaac Heimbinder.