Through Our Eyes public exhibit showcases the photo-journalism of St. Pete’s gifted youth

Through Our Eyes public exhibit showcases the photo-journalism of St. Pete’s gifted youth

group of cheerleaders in green uniforms
Cover photo by Jay Sanders, Grade 12

Through Our Eyes: Journeys in Journalism photography exhibit is officially open to visitors at [email protected] on First Avenue South. The showcase, which is in its 17th year, features the photo-journalism works of elementary through high school students who are in various journalism-centered academic programs.

“The youngest students are from Melrose Elementary School’s magnet program,” Artistic Director, Bob Devin Jones, said. “We also have the work of John Hopkins Middle School and Lakewood High School students.”

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Capturing life on camera

In years past, exhibiting students were given the instructions to capture the essence of “midtown St. Pete” in a photograph. This year, however—following 2021’s virtual gallery and the unpredictable nature of COVID-19—students were given the freedom to explore anything that caught their creative eye or portrayed their current lived experience. The resulting collection of photographs thus features everything from nature to family, as well as schoolyard shots and St. Pete landmarks.

Many of the works in Through Our Eyes demonstrate a high level of artistic ability and photo-journalistic proficiency. Participants from Melrose Elementary, as Jones mentioned, are members of an “admission-only” magnet program in which gifted public school students are able to specialize their studies in journalism. Teachers and mentors at the head of the program include current and former staff of the Tampa Bay Times.

Older students, from Johns Hopkins and Lakewood High, are members of journalism elective classes (rather than magnet programs), but work with the same esteemed mentors as the Melrose youth. Under this guidance, students from all three schools are able to foster their talents and produce intriguing, quality works.

Cultivating and celebrating young talent

In addition to photography, students in the schools’ various journalism programs are instructed in writing, media production and consumption, poetry and more.

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“On opening night,” Jones said, “The students had their journalism on the walls. They hung up their writing—their newspapers—for people to look at.”

Next year, [email protected] managing director, Marcus Wehby, hopes for even bigger opening night festivities and more ability to display the students’ other types of works.

“We’re taking things slow because of the pandemic,” Wehby said, “But, in other years, we would have five or six hundred people coming to the opening night. Local restaurants would give food, students would read poetry and hang their writing. We want to get back to that.”

Regardless of the pandemic restrictions, however, both Wehby and Jones are excited to be able to host an in-person gallery this season and give students the opportunity to showcase their work.

“Mentor” by Ke’lynn Nelson, Grade 3

Dates and visitation

For those interested in visiting Through Our Eyes, the gallery is currently open at 620 1st Avenue S. and will run through January 25. Showings are free, but all photographs on display are available for purchase. Proceeds from sales will fund a scholarship foundation for the exhibit’s students.

To set up a showing of Through Our Eyes, prospective guests can contact [email protected] at 727-895-6620.

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