Digital technology has altered the communications landscape, including the role visual imagery plays in our lives. In many ways this digital revolution has complicated the story of photography, and in some ways it has simplified it: with some 350 million images uploaded to Facebook every day, everyone is a photographer now. Visual imagery dominates our networks and media platforms to such an extent that, in a wired world, it will be the visually literate among us who will be the most effective communicators.

Human beings depend upon sight for the largest portion of their sensory learning, and visual literacy is a set of skills that allows us to construct meaning out of visual information. A visually literate person understands how to read visual images, and can use them to communicate intentionally with others. Aperture Foundation is working to help young people acquire the visual literacy skills they need to navigate the ocean of photographic images they will encounter as they move forward in their personal, academic, and adult professional lives.

During the 2013/14 academic year, Aperture Foundation piloted a new curriculum designed to teach visual literacy through photography and photobook creation. The Aperture curriculum teaches students to understand photographic form, use related vocabulary to support their analyses of photographs, and articulate the process of creating meaning through form, content, and context. Students expand their visual literacy by learning to look, and through direct involvement in the process and equipment used to create visual images and photobooks.

Students in grades four through seven enrolled in the afterschool Beacon Community Centers administered by Grand St. Settlement and Hudson Guild participated in the pilot program. With the support of Beacon Center staff, teaching artists Alice Proujansky, Christopher Lopez, and Angela LaSalle met with students weekly, for ten to twenty weeks. This exhibition features some of the best work created by these students.

The 2013/14 program was made possible by grants from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council, the Manhattan Community Grant Program, and the Pinkerton Foundation, with support provided by Grand St. Settlement and Hudson Guild. Aperture has received additional support from the Pinkerton Foundation and a gift from Agnes Gund to expand this program for the next academic year into additional schools and Beacon Centers.

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