Images of East Palo Alto

In October, 2002, I was checking my mail at the Stanford Post Office when I spotted a young woman with a camera hanging from her shoulder. Never one to pass an opportunity to talk to a photographer go by, I struck up a conversation with Arin Lawrence, who told me that she was taking a class in the African-American Studies department documenting the community of East Palo Alto.

The time is now February, 2003, and their photography exhibition is now on display in the East Palo Alto City Hall, located at 2415 University Avenue. The class was taught by Mimi Chakarova, a visiting-prof from Berkeley, who mentioned that the students had no prior experience in documentary photography. It would have been fun to have charted their progress from knowing nothing about photography (besides perhaps point-and-shoot) to becoming experienced shutterbugs. Congratulations, Matthew Bow, Deborah Burke, Linda Chavez, Ying-Chih Chuang, Efundunke Hughes, Niny Khor, Caroline Kuntz, Arin Lawrence, Jane Lilly, Nicole Louie, Paloma Rosenbaum, Richard Simpson, and Clara Wilkins!

In Images of East Palo Alto, “we see the hands-on, everyday meaning of community in East Palo Alto. Through the camera’s lens, the people of EPA let us share a few moments of poignancy, inspiration, and, quite simply, life. The projects include people as well as issues: students, seniors, parents, children, housing, healthcare, and more. The range is broad, but all of the work comes into focus around the same point: documenting a community.”

During the reception, a guy came up to me and asked, “Weren’t you a Symbolic Systems student?” Matthew Flannery remembered me from my introduction of Jaron Lanier for the Symbolic Systems Distinguished Speaker event. Wow, that was a long time ago! I seem to remember him coming into the SymSys office one day to ask questions about the program… either that or I met him during a talk I gave at Otero. At any rate, it was nice to meet him and his girlfriend, Jessica. Also in attendance was John Rickford, Professor of Linguistics at Stanford. In May of 2002, I photographed his son for an article for the Palo Alto Weekly. Everything is coming full circle now!

The exhibit runs from February 8 to March 1, 2003. Check it out if you have the time!

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