by Denise Liberi, Education Intern
One in Three, an exhibit spearheaded by The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, is on display at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens through December. The exhibit includes large scale photographs, written narratives, and testimonial videos that highlight the faces and stories of 20 Duval County public school students. Through dramatic portraits by photographer Ingrid Damiani, the One in Three exhibit serves as a voice to begin a community conversation about improving our education system and addressing the drop-out crisis. Those who experience One in Three are left with an overwhelming sense of hope and responsibility.
I was able to speak with photographer Ingrid Damiani about her experience with the One In Three project.
- How did you become involved in this project?
I specialize in documenting the work of non-profit organizations. Hope McMath, the director of the Cummer Museum, knows how much I love bringing light to difficult subjects through personal stories. I was delighted when she first presented the idea to me. I am drawn to projects that allow me to explore topics that seem daunting or overwhelming. I also enjoy creating photographs that invite others to learn about those difficult issues, and that I hope are part of inviting positive change. With the One in Three project, I was fortunate enough to not only to be involved through my photography but behind the scenes as well.
- How did you capture the turbulent struggles and successes of each individual in a static image?
My intention when I photograph someone is to connect with them in a meaningful way. I am looking to show the inner strength they possess in the midst of their struggle. I am looking to capture the strength and beauty in each person. It’s what drives any image that I create. My hope is that people who view my photographs will feel drawn to look more closely at situations that may be difficult or painful.
- How did your conversations with the students affect the photographs themselves?
The interviews that Rachael Tutwiler, from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), and I had with each student were more like natural conversations. We didn’t want the students to feel the pressure of being in the spotlight. Rachael lead the interview process with directed questions, but when I saw a moment that I wanted to capture, I would stop them to photograph or begin to redirect the questions myself. We developed a natural rhythm between each other and the kids that took a lot of the pressure off.
- Was there a teacher or mentor while you were growing up that encouraged your interests to lead you to a successful career in photography?
Not when I was growing up. I was passionate about photography at a young age, but didn’t see it as something I could pursue as a career. I saw photography as a personal interest or something that I did in my free time. It wasn’t until my thirties that I became serious about using the camera to explore issues that interested me. I was fortunate to find wonderful teachers and mentors along the way who encouraged me to exhibit my work.
- What role do you think art plays in the education of our community’s youth?
Art accesses a part of the brain that allows humans the opportunity to weigh different options, look at problems from new angles, and try on different hats. This skill can be applied to anything in life. Art brings a rich, colorful texture to the world that instills hope and possibility.
- What hope has the One in Three project instilled in you?
The sense that these problems are solvable. Despite all of the big struggles that face them, the students in the exhibition are hopeful about their future. I think they are great examples of how resilient the human spirit is. Their stories also show how powerful it is when an adult takes the time to really listen to a child and help them discover solutions to their challenges.