Expanding the Walls: Making Connections between Photography, History and Community (ETW) is an eight-month program that offers a group of New York City high school students the opportunity to study and work with the archives of renowned Harlem photographer James VanDerZee. The students learn about VanDerZee’s historic contributions to photography, techniques of 35mm photography and how the use the camera as a tool for engaging community. The program also grants the students behind-the-scenes access to the Studio Museum and introduces them to numerous museums, artists and art professionals. Each summer the Studio Museum mounts an exhibition of their work alongside a selection of VanDerZee prints, and, this year, new work by contemporary artist Dawoud Bey.
Since January, the fourteen ETW 2006 participants have engaged in workshops with families, seniors and peers, in discussion groups and field trips. In addition to these activities, they worked with photographers Jamel Shabazz and Xaviera Simmons to discuss and understand the role of photography in defining self and society. In collaboration with Bey, who photographed the students at their schools and worked as a program mentor, they conceived and organized this exhibition. Beyond Sight examines the genre of portraiture and its relationship to representation and perception. With images captured in diverse settings, ranging from social gatherings and the students’ homes to city streets and churches, Beyond Sight represents a personal approach to community, identity and human interaction.