Photo caption: Penny Adair takes a photo during the Osage Foundation’s photography camp. Courtesy Photo
An author once said, “Children see magic because they look for it.” This past week not only did they see it, but they created it.
For the past seven years, I’ve been honored to teach a youth photography camp sponsored by the Osage Nation Foundation. At no cost to the participants, this camp and others – golf, basketball, ballet, and more – offer area children a chance to stretch their imagination and indulge in fun, yet educational, pursuits during the dog days of summer.
As we wrapped up another successful photography camp, I found myself not only inspired but humbled at what I’ve witnessed these kids become. Seven years ago when the Foundation asked me to teach a photography camp, I jumped at the chance. That first year was like the Wild West – a classroom filled with excited and energetic youngsters! We had kids from all over – Pawhuska, Fairfax, Hominy, Sand Springs, Ponca City, Bartlesville, and even as far away as Jenks. Over the years, I’ve watched these same kids grow into fine young adults – kind, passionate, and full of promise for what they’ll become.
Each day of camp starts out with exercises in “seeing” and learning basic composition as we wander around the campus, looking for something to catch our eyes. I’ve spent decades teaching photography to adults and must say, children sometimes put us to shame with their fearlessness. They’re unafraid to look – or shoot – outside the box, coming up with stunning images of the most ordinary subjects. If anything, the hardest thing I had to do was discourage them from climbing trees or hanging off an embankment to “get the shot!”
One of those fearless and talented students is Penny Adair of Pawhuska. This is the last year Penny will be able to participate in our camp as she’s graduating and ready to move on to the next phase of her life. I remember the first time I saw her – quiet, a little shy, with this tiny camera in her hands. Throughout the week, I doled out instruction and assignments, and each day I sat back – amazed at what I saw her producing as a pre-teen. As the years progressed, Penny left me awestruck as the quality of her work surpassed many of my adult students, some who have gone on to work as professionals. Given it’s her last year, I was curious what camp meant to her, so I asked Penny to share her thoughts. Here’s what she had to say.
“I signed up for photography camp because my Mom asked if I’d like to go. I agreed, never dreaming I’d love it so much. I started the camp as just a hobby, sometimes going out with my Mom’s camera and taking pictures of flowers or my sisters. Since then I’ve found a real love for the art of photography and I owe it all to this class! It’s by far the best camp I’ve ever been to and I am so very grateful to Ms. Sherry for taking the time out of her busy schedule to teach a bunch of sometimes rowdy kids. Sadly, this is the final year I’ll be able to attend this camp and I will miss it very much. Anyone who might be thinking about signing up for this camp, I would tell them to definitely go for it!”
I asked Penny what shapes her creative process when she picks up the camera and she said, “When I’m out in the field, photographing a person or landscape, I think about the color and what will make that photo more interesting. For instance, when I’m shooting a sunset, I love to compose it where there’s a reflection of all the colors in the water.”
Reflecting on how the camp had changed her life, Penny paused for a moment, then said, “Before camp, I thought about doing something else, maybe be a vet or something. But now I see myself pursuing a career as a photographer and this class has helped me in making that decision.”
Scientist Louis Pasteur once said, “A child, he inspires in me two sentiments – tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.” These kids have definitely inspired me. No matter which direction their lives take them or what career they may end up choosing as adults, for a moment in the Summer of 2018, they were photographers.