Denise Bibro Fine Art, in Chelsea, NYC, in collaboration with Seeing for Ourselves, is pleased to announce New Visions: Activism Through the Lens, the highlights of the Department of Probation’s (DOP’s) Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) photography program.
Provided to New Yorkers serving probation and their neighbors, the twelve-week course—conducted by the participatory photography non-profit Seeing for Ourselves (SFO)—imparts a marketable skill while encouraging participants to express themselves and share their stories through photography. Four million Americans have found themselves under this form of community supervision, the sanction poorly understood by the general public.
The exhibit features photography by those residing in the seven underserved communities that a large portion of DOP’s clients call home: The South Bronx, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, Brownsville, South Jamaica, and Northern Staten Island.
The course follows the SFO paradigm established with public housing residents 2010-2013 that led to the globally-acclaimed, award-winning Project Lives: New York Residents of Public Housing Photograph Their World published in 2015. The NeON Photography program—with funding obtained by SFO from the National Endowment for the Arts, the city’s Work Progress Program, and Sigma Corporation of America—will also lead to a book. Like the earlier publication, the upcoming book will present a corrective portrait of the photographers’ communities, a visual tale of and by a population sensationalized by the media; the tale supported by a first-time portrait of the function serving these Americans with something less than stellar success. And so the wider purpose of both works is to reform what remains broken.
Directing the program for the SFO/DOP partnership, Chelsea Davis explains, “Our program provides professional photography training, as well as an opportunity, environment, and expectation for each participant to succeed. Each success looks different; for some it’s finding employment as a professional photographer, for others it’s using photography as a tool for self-expression or as a creative outlet.” Ana Bermudez—commissioner of the agency recognized by the industry as its leader—states, “NeON Photography is a transformative experience for those on probation and other community residents. It teaches the history of photography and provides complementary technical skills and the art of visual storytelling. The photographers have developed commercial advertising campaigns and undertaken event photography from Carnegie Hall to City Hall. The classes have increased civic engagement and built stronger relationships—particularly with adults and other community members—while creating intrinsic change within the participants in how they view themselves, and in their hope for their future and career path.” Denise Bibro observes, “Hosting this exhibit returns me to 2004, when the gallery featured Unbroken: Photography Subjects Speak Out—a pioneering participatory photography show.” Unbroken was curated by Denise Bibro and the very same principals who would eventually launch SFO.