Sierra Walters leaned over a table covered with dozens of glossy photographs. She moved a photo out of the group, frowned, then slid it back where it was.
“I feel it works better over here,” she said to herself, placing it next to a similar photo.
Sierra, a seventh-grader at Beacon Middle School, is one of four students in the Inspired Artists Program, a partnership with Dewey Artist Collaboration.
Language arts teacher Denise Matthews said in response to requests for after-school art projects, she approached Principal Dave Frederick, who had already spoken with Leah Beach of DAC about a possible program.
“We decided to focus on photography, since that’s Leah’s area of expertise,” Matthews said.
Interested students completed a questionnaire and were chosen based on the strength of their answers. In addition to Sierra, seventh-graders Marley Dunlop and Arpi Karapetyan, and sixth-grader Abigail Bradley comprise the inaugural program.
“They had not worked with actual cameras or film before,” Matthews said.
Students met with Matthews and Beach once a week for seven weeks to learn techniques such as composing a photo using the rule of thirds, proper focusing, the use of space and color, and the difference between selfies and portraits.
Beach, who directed a similar program in South Africa with Global Vision International, said introducing creative photography, rather than its technical aspects, makes learning more fun and less intimidating.
“These guys have been amazing,” she said. “They’re not afraid to take risks.”
DAC supplied disposable cameras so students could photograph scenes at school, home and during a trip to Rehoboth, where they shot landscapes, portraits and macro photos, which are extreme close-ups.
“They were surprised every time they saw the developed film,” Beach said. “Their pictures have become much stronger through the process.”
Students selected their best photos and wrote narratives to introduce themselves, and explain their work and inspiration for an exhibit at the DAC’s new facility, the Warehouse.
The exhibit will be open from 12 to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Warehouse, 19817 Hebron Road, West Rehoboth, and will be on display until the end of December. Call 302-703-9822 or go to deweyarts.org.