It is important to be reminded of the power of photography to educate and explore, and to be a vehicle of self-expression, even self-realization. Equally crucial—through process and through memory—photography’s ability to bring people together, to share and to collaborate, is vital. On this week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast, we welcome a photographer who has built her life’s work around this idea of education through creative collaboration. For more than forty years, Wendy Ewald has led documentary “investigations” and collaborative projects that encourage the participants to use cameras to examine their own lives, families, and communities, and to make images of their fantasies and dreams. During these projects, she also photographs—normally with a 4 x 5 camera—and then asks her students and subjects to manipulate her images and negatives, further engaging with the process and adding to the authorship of the final work.
With support of the most prestigious fellowships, from universities, NGOs, even from camera and film manufacturers, Ewald has directed photography programs in South America, India, Africa, Canada and, most notably, in Appalachia. In the 1970s, Ewald worked with schools and the Appalshop media center to teach photography to children living in rural Kentucky and, in 1985, published the groundbreaking book Portraits and Dreams: Photographs and Stories by Children of the Appalachians. This book has been an inspiration to countless educators and community photographers and, this year, Mack Books has published an expanded edition, which includes updates on the lives of several of the original students. Ewald also has co-directed a documentary film on the project and the reunion with her former students, which recently aired on the PBS program POV.
Join us as we speak with Ewald about teaching in Kentucky and elsewhere, about the power of collaboration and creative expression, and about reuniting with her former students and the making of her powerful documentary.