National Geographic News
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There's no shortage of fantasy camps these days. For a price, folks can learn guitar licks from rock-and-roll greats, shag flies with baseball Hall of Famers, or cook at the elbows of celebrity chefs.
But to aspiring photographers, Adassa Richardson, 18, probably enrolled in the best camp of all. Every Wednesday for five weeks this summer, Richardson attended Photo Camp 2003 at the National Geographic Society.
The workshop was offered for the first time this year as part of a paid summer internship program for inner-city high school students from Washington, D.C., known as the Learning/Employment/Adventure Program (LEAP), a decade-old initiative sponsored by the National Geographic Society Education Foundation.
During the course, students met National Geographic photographers, editors, and other guest speakers. They shot two to three rolls of a color film a week and kept a journal. Class time was spent discussing craft, critiquing photos, and, perhaps best of all, taking pictures in the field with visiting photographers. Students worked at internships in the Society's Image Collection, Expeditions Council, human resources department, and other divisions during the rest of the week.
So it was that on a drizzly Wednesday afternoon last month, Richardson and a dozen of her peers found themselves standing on the corner of 18th and N Street in downtown Washington, D.C.
With them were Sam Abell, a National Geographic Society Contributing Photographer-in-Residence with over 25 magazine assignments and nine books to his credit; Stephen Crowley, a New York Times photographer and recent Pulitzer Prize winner; and Kirsten Elstner, a former Times freelance photographer and the photo program's full-time instructor.
Zip Code 20036
The students were there to kick off their first day of shooting, try out their new Nikon point-and-shoot cameras, and get a feel for the subject of their five-week assignment: a portrait of the 20036 zip code, a 47-block chunk of downtown Washington that surrounds the National Geographic Society campus.
The neighborhood is home to flower shops, street vendors, subterranean subway stations, and other surprises tucked amid canyons of glass-walled office buildings.
How to capture that neighborhood would be a challenge for any shooter, let alone student photographerssome of whom have never owned a camera.
To help inspire and inform their efforts, Abell spoke with students earlier in the day about his own approach to his craft. He shared his belief that photography, like dancing and music, "takes you into life." Abell showed slides of Japanese gardens, Australian ranch hands, hard-luck cowboys, and dogs mugging for the camera.
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