Mornings on the farm are generally fairytale fodder: sunlight dappled grass, the occasional rooster call, butterflies and bees flitting from blossom to blossom.
I say generally because on the morning of June 17th, the farm was anything but tranquil. As the bus rumbled up the driveway -- a cartoon like dust cloud trailing behind it -- the chickens seemed to brace for impact. The wheels ground to a halt, the doors burst open, and out tumbled half dozen rowdy kids, followed closely by the same number of local photographers, artists and volunteers, and armed with digital cameras, bottled water and an arsenal of turkey sandwiches.
This expedition was part of the Southwood Youth Photography Project, a joint effort between the Bridge/PAI and Albemarle County Schools, which brings students from the Southwood mobile home park together with adult mentors to learn basic photography skills and creative writing techniques.
In past years, the group has explored their own neighborhood, the Rivanna River, and downtown Charlottesville. This summer, Maple Hill Farm was to be their muse. Local photographer Billy Hunt, Bridge Executive Director, Greg Kelly, and local writer, John Casteen were among the group, heading up lessons and providing technical guidance.
For the better part of four hours, the kids and their mentors explored the farm through the lenses of their donated digital cameras. They climbed fences, chased chickens, and lunched beneath the shade of the barn. When the sun got high and energy levels dropped, poetry and writing lessons ensued. Just as the day devolved into Frisbee games and group photos, the bus (and its dust cloud) returned for pick up.
This fall, the prints from these budding young photographers will be displayed at the Bridge in a show called La Finca: The Farm, and a printed hardback book will be available for purchase. Stay tuned for details.
View a slideshow from the day here: