How Kids See Downtown

You may recall how in April Babesta launched Greetings from My Hood/The Postcard Project, handing out 100 disposable cameras so that kids age 5 to 13 could take photos of anything below Canal that represented the area. Well, the photos are in—Babesta sent me a bunch, which I posted below. (Click on them to see the entire photo.) Babesta’s Jenn Cattaui answered a few questions….

Any surprises? (Besides how great they were…)
There were tons of surprises. First of all, how many jeans, legs, butts and car wheels there are. I now realize the experience of a child in a densely populated city is punctuated by these things….

Some funny pictures I loved: There is one picture of a lot of sidewalk—about 90 percent of the pic is sidewalk. Upper center there is a small dog on a leash, looking to the side. Next to him, there is just a pair of gargantuan paws but the child did not capture the large dog. It left me wanting for more—who was this large dog, and how could he be cut out? A companion of this child captured (in another roll) the two dogs from a different angle. I felt the relief of knowing—my excitement of having open questions answered in several rolls of film was neat and unexpected.

Their choices surprised me—the angles were different than I think most adults would choose. And these angles and choices made it so interesting. I loved that many of the pictures were taken from their homes from a rooftop or from their windows. It told of access, insider’s view.

There was a lot of overlap in subject—the City Hall Park fountain was very popular (I particularly liked one that cut out most of the fountain and focused on other people taking pictures of the fountain). The Woolworth Building. Certain businesses—Square Diner, Odeon, the balloons outside of Balloon Saloon, the Peking at South Street Seaport. Ice Cream trucks and scooters. Abandoned scooters by the side of the road, in the park, on the grass and everywhere. Bikes, playgrounds, iron-bench curlicues over by the federal buildings. Friends.

Close ups of cobblestones, manholes the inclusions of trash cans, and the things that we would normally edit out—that is a part of reality of any city life.

And yes, two girls went there: They chose to photograph a dead rat. One decidedly grosser than the last.

Any feedback from the parents? Or the kids?
Parents have been so supportive and enthusiastic, letting us know where they went, that they did it fast or slow. Some sent us pictures of their kids taking pictures, some sent us extra pictures that they spotted after finishing their cameras as they were still so attuned to looking at the neighborhood in this new heightened way. Some parents told us that this project was the first time they actually went and looked at some of the other sections of Lower Manhattan with their kids—it brought them out of their day to day and gave them teaching moments, things to explain, show and discuss. That was really cool to hear.

What’s the next step?
We have the last of the cameras coming back today from Trilogy Photo (they have done a great job developing them). Then the judges are judging, and we’ll send the top 10 to the printers to be made into postcards and give a slew to Trilogy to blow up. We’ll have a gallery opening hopefully late June to honor the young shutterbugs. We plan to put up a host of pictures in the store and unveil the winners’ postcards which will be for sale to benefit the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council at this event (date TBD).

After that, we’ll see! We’ve been asked by people from different neighborhoods (and states) to bring the project to them, and possibly we’ll repeat this again next year and make it an annual thing. Seeing the world through the fresh eyes of the kids is inspiring—all of us at Babesta feel so invested in and proud of every roll. (As we have them all as numbers rather than names, our conversations are like: Look at Number 21! Number 55 is amazing! Number 17 is hysterical! We wonder what their identities are—but it’s a better kept secret for now.)


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