The Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) presents the work of the 11-to-18-year-old Bronx Junior Photo League (BJPL) students, all created during their time in quarantine.
Students in the BJPL, the Bronx Documentary Center’s free documentary storytelling and college success program for 6th through 12th grade students, have been documenting social justice issues and community-based stories since 2013. Beginning in October each year, BJPL students learn how to make strong photos and to engage with the community beyond the classroom. They photograph and interview local businesses and organizations, neighbors we know, and many we don’t. By February, students begin formulating story ideas for their final projects, multimedia stories, and photo essays. They spend 2-3 months working on these projects, editing in Adobe Premiere and making prints in the BDC’s darkroom.
On March 12, 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the BDC made the decision to suspend all programs and move to remote learning. The BJPL teaching staff spent two weeks revamping their longstanding curriculum and ensured that the students and their families had the support needed not only to participate in photography classes, but to stay as connected and healthy as possible. BJPL delivered laptops by car and bicycle, paired every student with a BJPL teacher for weekly wellness check-ins, and provided groceries and disinfectant supplies to households in need. BJL built on their existing community in a virtual space, holding weekly creative sessions–most often led by students–for dance parties, drawing, and protest-solidarity sign-making that continued through the end of the semester.
On March 30th, BJPL classes resumed with a 10-week-long virtual program with a new curriculum building on the compositional, technical, and storytelling skills our students have been learning since the fall. They photographed themselves, their homes, and collaborated with peers through photo dialogues and remote portrait sessions. They created visual and written explorations of their experiences during this time, finding ways to tell stories about mental health, undocumented families, religious practices, and life under lockdown, as well as the direct consequences of COVID-19, including recovering from illness and losing loved ones.
The coronavirus has touched everyone’s life in some way, but the South Bronx, the poorest urban congressional district in the United States, has had the highest rates of coronavirus cases in the country. Throughout their short history, the Bronx Junior Photo League students have always risen to the occasion to decry and document injustices. They’ve stood against climate change, unequal housing opportunities, and violence–just this December, BJPL students demanded safe streets, rallying against a shooting on our block that injured five–and now are safely protesting police violence. So it is no surprise that, despite surviving a global crisis, they have continued to dig deeper on the stories that are important to them, exploring and engaging with the world around them–albeit now a much smaller physical reality.
There are nearly 40 projects presented in this year-end celebration of the BJPL students’ work. These stories, from the too-often-unseen empathetic lens of our youth, are a critical testament of this crucial time in America’s history.
Matthew Almeydas | Gianna Almonte | Fanny Aucacama | Jared Birks | Paloma Boyewa-Osborne | Justin Brefo | Heidi Calderon | Elisa Luna Cameron | Brandon Carchipulla | Anastasia Cardona | Izaiah Cardona | Ana Carmona | Raymond Castillo | Olympia Chen | Jade Delilah Park | Fanta Diop | Awa Fofana | Fritzi Garcia | Alberto Garcia | Lucki Islam | Savannah Juste | Tiara Maldonado | Tianna Maldonado | Taylor Moorman | Sophia Morales | Reynaldo Olivera | Alexa Pacheco | Carlos Pacheco | Chloe Rodriguez | Pamela Rozon | Tara Smalls | Paola Soto | Nnyala Stark | Adanna Taylor | Eliezer Vargas | Dylan Velez | Lorena Vicente | Brian Yelez | Gianni Zambrano
Virtual Exhibition On View:
June 17-28, 2020
Middle School Online Opening Reception + Presentation
Wednesday, June 17th, 6-7:30PM
High School Online Opening Reception + Presentation
Thursday, June 18th, 6-7:30PM
BRONX DOCUMENTARY CENTER
614 Courtlandt Avenue
Bronx, NY 10451
364 E. 151st STREET
Bronx, NY 10455