Portraits in friendships between BGSU student photographers & Wood Lane individuals exhibited at Toledo Museum


BG Independent News

To find the Wood Lane photo exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art, walk toward Matisse’s “Apollo” on the ground floor, then take a left.

Just down the hall from that masterpiece, images of people served by Wood Lane line the walls of the Community Gallery. Most of the photos were taken by students in Lynn Whitney’s Community Projects class at Bowling Green State University. Some were taken by the Wood Lane individuals themselves.

The exhibit, “Speaking of,” is the culmination of semester long project through which a dozen BGSU student photographers were teamed up with Wood Lane individuals. This is the project’s fifth year.

At the opening, Whitney said this was “a project that seeks to bring a voice and alternative vision to a community of especially wonderful people.”

In the beginning the Wood Lane individuals were the subjects. The photographers worked with them to depict their lives. This year, though, they were also given cameras and with the guidance of their student partners also made photographs.

They went out bowling, shopping, for ice cream, and talked, said Lisa Kaplan, a BGSU graduate and a professor at Adrian College who has watched the project develop. And they came to the museum both for a visual literacy workshop and to view the Kehinde Wiley exhibit.

This kind of partnership is especially needed now, Kaplan said. “We face a nation that’s increasingly suffering in many ways from a terrible lack of empathy. The struggle continues to get to a place where people with disabilities are fully integrated members of society who have full access to jobs, family, and education. … The public presentation of these pictures is a challenge to a dominant, often dehumanizing, narrative of people with disabilities.”

Museum Director Brian Kennedy said the project connects with the museum’ focus on visual literacy. “We teach people how to see, to make them understand what they see. When you understand what you see, you empathize; you try to think what the other person is feeling.”

Those connections are more personal between the partners in pictures.

“I really felt like it was going to be a new experience,” said Kristy Cartmell of her decision to enroll in the class. “It would take me out of my comfort zone and make a connection with somebody. Photography is all about the connection.”

She was partnered with Michael. He said he learned about photography, and was pleased he could take a few shots himself. His favorite subject was “my friend Kristy.”

Brandyn, who was teamed up with Clara Delgado, had taken photos on his phone, now he learned to operate a camera with a shutter and using film. “I learned a lot.”

Delgado said he learned patience. She uses a 4-by-5 format camera, which takes longer to set up shots. But Brandyn was easy to get along with, she said.

“I had a good experience,” she said. “I learned a lot from Brandyn. I learned to be with him. It wasn’t hard at all to be with him.”

That was the point of taking the class. “I was interested in meeting somebody new and learning how to make pictures with someone and having really nice moments. We had some really wonderful moments.”

Those friendships last beyond the single semester, Kennedy noted.

The exhibit will be up through Aug. 6.

“You will have the opportunity,” Kennedy said, “to bring every friend you have, every relative you have to see your photographs hanging in the Toledo Museum of Art.”