Friends of Island Academy & CASES Wrap-Up

We’re so deeply proud of our students from ICP’s Community Partnership with Friends of Island Academy & CASES, who shone so brightly for their final presentations and exhibition this week! Many thanks to all the staff involved in such critical collaboration, and to all the family and friends who came out to support! And most of all, we thank our young photographers, writers, and leaders of tomorrow – for sharing their truths and talents!

Here’s to giving all of our young people as many opportunities and tools as possible to express themselves, tell their stories, and become their dreams!


Final group shot with the whole ICP-Friends-CASES team!



Friends of Island Academy Final Presentation

Our final presentation with Friends of Island Academy was a huge success once again! We are very happy and proud of what our students accomplished during this session. They worked very hard creating a series of images that spoke to their sense of identity. By the end of the session, they grew as photographers and story-tellers and became especially aware of the importance of telling their own stories. They presented their photographs and their reflections on their identities in front of a room full of supporters, family, and friends.The food was pretty good too!


Kori practicing his final presentation before our guests arrive. Credit: Ashley Wu


The students final prints matted and framed. Each student got to keep his/her own framed image, and a second copy got installed in the FOIA offices. Credit: Ashley Wu

With each student’s story and photographs, we were able to see the wonderful potential they are becoming more able to tap into. Some of our youth spoke of becoming film directors and media makers, others discussed becoming involved in community service, while others had dreams of working in medicine or becoming professional models.


© Leomar, student


© Shanell, student


© Kori, student


© Xavier, student


© Shayla, student


© Jocelyn, student


© Kawone, student


© Derrick, student

Although most of them were nervous, they did a great job of presenting their work for the audience. The pride on their faces upon hearing the applause from the audience was priceless. Each student received a printed photograph from their photo studio shoot and a montage of all of the photographs from the studio in order to commemorate them completing our program. We look forward to following their successes in the future!

ICP FOIA group shot 2015

Our final group shot! Credit: Doran Walot

FOIA Studio Shoot at ICP

After weeks of practice using our digital SLR cameras, our students from Friends of Island Academy were ready for their studio photography session at ICP. Each created ideas for a series of studio portraits that told the story of who they were in the past, who they are now, and who they want to be in the future. Our students also had the unique opportunity to work with professional photo equipment in a professional studio in order to create their photographs.


Student Kori creates an image about his passion for cinematography. Credit: Ashley Wu

This process also involved collaboration and working in teams. First, each student outlined his/her ideas about how to make their portraits. Once we got to the studio, students worked in teams of 3 or more to create the photos: one student was the photographer, one was the art director, and the final student, the subject, also conceptualized the portrait.


In this image, student Derrick takes the photograph, Xavier directs, and Leomar conceptualizes the image about his future as a doctor and a caretaker. Credit: Jamaal Levine

Students had to discuss their approaches to creating images just like they would in a production meeting. The student being photographed had to share their concept and then collaboratively organize a plan for how to create their images with their classmates who would be photographing and directing the shoot.


Here, student Jocelyn captures the image of Leomar with ICP TA Jamaal Levine and FOIA staff Anthony DeJesus. Credit: Ashley Wu

We worked with strobe lighting kits and hot lights. It was a long day, but everyone had a great time. In the end, we created some great portraits that we look forward to sharing with our friends, family, and the ICP and FOIA communities in our final exhibition…which we’ll share here soon!


Students Derrick and Kawone review Derrick’s image on the camera together. Derrick’s portrait depicts him as a graduate, which is one of his personal goals. Credit: Jamaal Levine


Students Shayla and Jocelyn reviewing Jocelyn’s photograph together. Jocelyn’s work from the studio depicted her as a doctor who wants to heal the world. Credit: Ashley Wu


Trip to ICP and Guest Artist Visit

This week’s FOIA class involved us taking a trip to the International Center of Photography (ICP) to tour the facilities and meet Guest Artist, photographer Alzo Slade.  As with our trip to the Brooklyn Museum, this was a great opportunity for our students to leave Harlem and be visually inspired by another area of the city.

1 Jamaal

ICP Faculty Bayeté Ross Smith introducing students to concepts in photography, such as the “rule of thirds.” Credit: Jamaal Levine

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Guest Artist and ICP Faculty Alzo Slade shows the class his own work. Credit: Jamaal Levine

We were also very happy to get our students acquainted with the ICP community more directly. Alzo discussed his career and artistic process with us, in addition to showing a body of work he created about New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. In one series Alzo examined the landscape and they way humans occupied the space of the city 463 days after the storm. In another series he creates a series of portraits accompanied by the writing of a collective of low income New Orleans residents, examining how the storm impacted their physical lives as well as their consciousness.

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Alzo speaking with the students from FOIA. Credit: Jamaal Levine

4 Ashlety

Student Kori on a photo shoot in Bryant Park. Credit: Ashley Wu

6 Ashley

Students Chanel and Kori creating portraits together in Bryant Park. Credit: Ashley Wu

7 Ashley

Bayete looks at an image on student Shaylan’s camera along with Chanel. Credit: Ashley Wu

Our students engaged in a thoughtful conversation about issues of representation and having the power to tell one’s own story. We also discussed questions of social responsibility when telling the stories of other people’s communities. Alzo is a faculty member at ICP and the former lead instructor for the FOI A program. This showed in his rapport and presence with our students, which truly inspired them.After our visit with Alzo, our students spent some time photographing each other in Bryant Park. Our photographs were inspired by Alzo’s work and approach to documenting people’s experience, but emphasizing and highlighting aspects of their personalities that exist beneath the surface.

An Artistic Trip from Harlem to Brooklyn

Our Friends of Island Academy students traveled from Harlem to Brooklyn on April 8 to visit the Brooklyn Museum and see the work of renowned artist Kehinde Wiley. Wiley’s latest exhibition A New Republic also travels from Harlem to Brooklyn through the characters in his paintings. Many of the subjects of Wiley’s work are young African Americans from Harlem. The idea that launched this current series of work stemmed from a wanted poster mug shot Wiley found while doing an artist residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem.


Brooklyn Museum Educator Ajdoa introduces students to Kehinde Wiley’s work through one of his earliest paintings, inspired by a mug shot he found in Harlem. Credit: Ashley Wu

His process of finding young Black men and women on the streets of Harlem and inviting them to visit his studio to take part in envisioning painted portrait, in the tradition of European portraiture truly moved our students. They were able to see elements of themselves within the context of “classic” images of beauty and prominence.


The group discussing one of Wiley’s best known paintings, Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps. Credit: Jamaal Levine


Brooklyn Museum Educators Lindsay and Adjoa in dialogue with students. Credit: Jamaal Levine


Student Chanel pointing out details in the painting Femme piquée par un serpent. Credit: Ashley Wu


The students were given images of traditional European portraiture and asked to find the pieces by Kehinde Wiley that referenced these historical paintings. Here Kawone, Derrick, and FOIA staff Marc search for their painting in the galleries! Credit: Jamaal Levine

This process of “street casting” added a collaborative aspect to the work that represents the agency that is so rarely given to young people of color in defining their own image in mass media. We were fortunate and very thankful to have a personalized tour of the exhibition with Brooklyn Museum staff Rujeko Hockley, Adjoa Jones de Almeida and Lindsey C. Harris.


ICP TA Jamaal and students Reggie and Jocelyn viewing one of Wiley’s newer pieces of stained glass art. Credit: Ashley Wu


Group shot of ICP and FOIA staff and students along with Brooklyn Museum Educator Adjoa! Credit: Lindsay C. Harris

Inspired by Wiley’s images and process in his paintings, the students then used these ideas to photograph their own photographs in Prospect Park and Prospect Heights.


Jocelyn and Reggie taking photographs inspired by the works of Kehinde Wiley. Credit: Ashley Wu

Getting Started

It’s the beginning of another year for our Community Partnership with Friends of Island Academy! We’re focusing on the basics of digital photography, writing and public speaking, and are working with themes of self and community empowerment. Students enhance their understanding of  visual literacy and the power of telling their own stories. Portraiture, especially self-portraiture, is a key element of their work. After discussing the concepts of strength and self improvement, our students have begun creating portraits of one another. They also are examining how environment and the backgrounds of photographic portraits impact the portraits’ meaning.


Group introductions on the first day of class. Credit: Jamaal Levine


Viewing student work from previous years to inspire our new students! Credit: Jamaal Levine


Students Leomar, Tiffani, and Kawone learning to use the DSLR cameras. Credit: Ashley Wu


Students Kori and Kawone working on their Partner Portraits assignment. Credit: Ashley Wu

About ICP’s Community Partnership with Friends of Island Academy & CASES

Credit: Isabel Figueroa

Credit: Isabel Figueroa

ICP’s Community Partnership with Friends of Island Academy and the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES) provides instruction in the basics of digital photography, writing, and public speaking as integrated into the pre-existing educational goals of Friends and CASES. Working with the themes of self and community empowerment, students work with digital cameras, laptop computers, and journals becoming more comfortable with their possibilities as tools for learning, self-expression, and affecting change. The curriculum includes: theme-based discussions, photography and writing assignments, slide presentations, group critiques/sharings, a guest artist visit, field trips, and time to prepare for the final presentation. The program culminates in a multimedia celebration of the students’ work for staff, family, and friends.

Friends of Island Academy is a youth development center, which anchors and empowers young people newly released from jail in New York City and offers the protective factors necessary to keep them from going back.

CASES is an organization that provides critical support services to predominantly court-involved youth.

Credit: Isabel Figueroa

Credit: Isabel Figueroa