Photo exhibit showcases trip to Ghana

January 9, 2009 5:41:59 PM PST
A fascinating new photo exhibit opened in San Francisco that documents a powerful journey for several Bay Area teenagers. They went to West Africa with cameras and compassion.

A group of teenagers spent three weeks in a country they did not know. They shared cultures, took pictures and made lasting friends.

There were more than 10,000 digital images and 400 rolls of film of Bay Area and Ghanian young people.

"They just opened up to us. We were from the first day I fell in love with them, they fell in love with us," said Naomi Castro from San Pablo.

"I expected to go out there and feel sorry for them, but I began to see sorry for myself because I felt i was missing out on something," said Jontonnette Clark from San Francisco.

It was their joy and energy that got to them. There were trips and classes. Naomi gave photos lessons about colors.

"I might assign a few students red, so they'd find things that were red and then find interesting ways to shoot them," said Castro.

"I taught sign language," said Clark. "They'd remember their ABC's in sign language."

They are part of SF Camerawork's First Exposures Mentoring Program. They pair young people one-on-one with professional photographers.

"A big part of mentoring is relationship building and that was part of the idea of building relationships there," said First Exposures Director Erik Auerbach.

There were tears when it was time to leave, and lessons about life in a new perspective.

"We've had our struggles, but it's nothing compared to what they go through every day of their lives," said Castro.

"The kids in Africa, they don't have half of what I have, so why am I complaining. It taught me life lessons," said Clark.

When the show closes on March 25, the photos will be auctioned off. The money raised will go to another group of young people, so that they can do the same thing as ambassadors.