Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Cameras give kids a new view


Over-the-Rhine girls produce beauty amid poverty of their surroundings

By Jane Prendergast
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Tyra Hills (left), 13, photographer Jimmy Heath, and Monet Jackson, 14, talk about the girls' photo project, which was done through the Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Over-the-Rhine. Their photos and those of others in the group hang at the Base Gallery in Over-the-Rhine.
The Enquirer/CRAIG RUTTLE
OVER-THE-RHINE - Squeezed between a place where homeless people take showers and an agency that provides jobs and furniture to the poor is a photography exhibit.

The pictures hanging inside the Base Gallery's storefront window on Main Streetshow a summer vacation, a beloved brother, girlfriends.

They were taken by a group of neighborhood girls as part of a photography and literacy project this spring at Peaslee Neighborhood Center. Documenting their daily lives, they walked around this neighborhood that often draws the most attention for being a common place for violent crime.

More than a third of the city's 38 killings so far this year have happened in this community of 7,600.

You might think life in a place like this would be reflected in their photos. It's not.

And that's the cool thing, says photography program director Jimmy Heath. Their pictures show that these Over-the-Rhine kids are just like kids who grow up anywhere else.

"That's the first thing I learned,'' said Heath, who runs the program with expired disposable cameras and donations. "They're kids just like I was back when.''

Tyra Hills took a picture of a cicada on a flower.

IF YOU GO
What: Over-the-Rhine Children's Photography.
When: Noon-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Where: 1227 Main St.
Information: 721-2273.
"I didn't know how it was gonna turn out,'' she said. "I just took it and it turned out real pretty.''

She has lived in Over-the-Rhine all of her 13 years.

"I'm used to it,'' she said. "That's all I can say.''

Monet Jackson's 14. She took a picture of her mom. Her mom was a little jealous, she said, after she took a picture of her sister.

Monet's quiet. Ask what she likes about living here, and she shrugs.

Then she comes up with: "No cicadas, I guess. That's something.''

From Peaslee, an agency on 14th Street that offers child care and a variety of other programs for kids, the girls can walk three blocks to the gallery to see their work.

"When people talk about this neighborhood, it's always about the other people, the bad guys,'' Heath said. "But there's children here.''

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com




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