Nonprofit puts tweens behind the camera

The Future Photomakers program fosters middle-schoolers interested in photography.

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Two dudes — freelance art director Tim Lampe and freelance creative director Keith Weaver — want to make Atlantans' middle school years just a bit less painful. Together they helm Future Photomakers, an educational nonprofit aimed to foster photographic creativity among a group of young people. The program presently preps to roll out a show, Future Photomakers Student Showcase, at Edgar Allan to feature work from its inaugural run with Sutton Middle School. CL caught up with Lampe over email to talk creativity's place in the classroom, working with VSCO, and why middle school is great time to start flexing photographic muscles.

Tell me about how Future Photomakers originated and the upcoming show.
Tim Lampe: Future Photomakers emerged out of a need that we saw in Atlanta public school arts funding — which has been decreasing for years. It’s no secret that the state of Georgia sits at the bottom of the pile in this category and that there is an incredible need for children’s art programming. In our own small way, we want to make a difference in the lives of kids and pass along our passion for photography and storytelling to this next generation of image makers.

The program was a huge success and now we're excited to celebrate that collective work and the creativity of each of these wonderful kids. The students will be displaying photographs they took during the course of Future Photomakers and for most of them this will the first time they've shown artwork in a public gallery setting. We had always planned to showcase the work to Atlanta and raise money to go back into the Sutton arts program.

Why do young Atlantans need a program like this? Why is the focus middle school-aged people, specifically?
T.L.: Kids should always feel comfortable to express their artistic self from a young age and know that it’s something they can pursue for more than just a hobby. We both had the advantage of having our creativity fostered since such a young age that we don’t know what our lives would have been without that support. We wanted to create a spark of creativity in these young kids that may lead to a creative career. Middle school kids were a little bit more focused than grade school kids but still had a sense of wonder and exploration for this to thrive.

Explain a typical day of class within the Future Photomakers confines.
T.L.: We held the program on Saturday afternoons starting at noon. The kids would come in and put their stuff down, and then we’d ask them to hang up their work they shot during the week on the wall. We wanted it to feel like a college critique, but a place where all the kids could talk about what they liked about each other’s work. After that there’d be a weekly activity, and that ranged from studio lighting, to shooting portraits of strangers to writing about the photos they’ve taken so far. We’d wrap up, talk about what we did that day, and give a homework assignment for the week.

Where do you envision the nonprofit proverbially going in the next five years?
T.L.: We want to develop this into a full nonprofit and be able to replicate the photo camp all around the city. This was a prototype for us, nicely supported by the folks at art and tech company VSCO who believed in what we were doing. We’ve had discussions with many arts organizations and other nonprofits in Atlanta who are building the arts education scene and we hope to be part of it in a big way. We plan on building out the Future Photomakers program but will make sure to factor in all we’ve learned from this first session to make it best for Atlanta students.

Describe an especially rewarding experience from working with the program.
T.L.: One of our students Aida came up to Keith towards the end of class one day and asked him if we would be doing Future Photomakers again in January. He asked her why she was asking and she said to me, "Because Future Photomakers is my life. This class is everything to me." Keith's eyes began to well up and he gave her a big hug. That moment was so moving for us and made us realize how important this work is that we are doing. It's an honor to be teaching these kids and that was a moment we'll never forget.

We’ve also had stories this past week since catching up with the kids where they’ve told us about how they’ve started diving more into photography because of the program.

What's the most important lesson you hope to teach these green artists?
T.L.: We wanted a safe and comfortable place for kids to be able to express their creativity. We hope that we can really provide the comfort for them to explore their wildest creative ideas. Taking photos doesn’t always need to be so serious. It’s OK to be weird, to explore, and make art. The kids should know that there is plenty of support for a creative career in their future.

Future Photomakers Student Showcase opens at Edgar Allan Sat., March 5, at 6 p.m. Free.

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