Last week, I attended a Black History Month event in Harlem, hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. I was instantly touched by the words of Ming Smith, who was honored that evening, when she said, “photographs are powerful, and looking at your own photograph makes you powerful.” So true! We create our own history when we snap a picture.
I hope you all had a chance to read the Editor’s Letter in the February issues of Popular Photography by Miriam Leuchter. She is also Vice President of the Board of Directors at JHP and heads up the development committee. We are so lucky to have her! She shares her observations on a visit to our photography program that takes place at NYU Langone Medical Center with adults suffering from brain injury. A testament to the magic of the camera lens – of all the arts, I find photography to be the most accessible and versatile. With an introduction by a professional, our participants learn hands-on, create, share and connect. Offering a camera to someone who feels cut off because of poverty or illness is an invitation to be part of the world, and make history.
Tuesday evening, July 28, the JHP community relaxed on a beautiful roof deck on the Lower East Side, thanks to the generosity of Bradley and Elana Hart. We call it the annual BBQ because of the summer appeal, but for two years now have served delicious Mexican food from Dos Toros along with beer or a bright and bubbly Prosecco. A nice blowing breeze and the gorgeous East River and New York City sunset views turned a hot night into a cool event. It was a fantastic way to connect and say thank you to all the very special people who teach our programs, help us with videography, participate on committees, and serve on our board. And to those who could not attend, we couldn’t succeed without you!
JHP board members and photographers chat.
JHP photographer Vik and former participant and current Advisory Board member Akeem.
Board member Matt snaps shots of volunteer photographer Romina and guest.
JHP Executive Director Maureen and Program Coordinator Afiya chat with guests while Matt snaps the photographer Sheridan and the beautiful LES view.
By Maureen McNeil – Executive Director – February 4, 2015
February brings new partnerships and programs! I recently met with William Forrester, President and CEO of Goodwill, and his top staff, to discuss how photography and the arts in general provide crucial learning experiences for underserved communities seeking employment. This spring JHP will partner with Goodwill to provide programs for veterans and their families and youth at-risk preparing for college tours.
Other amazing programs this spring include a Brain Trauma Survivors group and at the planning meeting we discovered that many participants know Dr. Flanagan of Rusk Rehabilitation, honored by JHP on November 6th; a program at JobPath taught by Vik Gupta and Elena Burnstein; a veteran program at St. Francis College taught by Peter Neumann and Linda Kesseler; a Services for the Underserved veteran program taught by Nousha Salimi and Jo Gramarosso; the Step-Up Program for youth at-risk at the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, NYU; and two programs for girls at the Marilyn David IVDU Upper School taught by Camille Tokerud and Alberto Vasari. Not only do these participants learn visual literacy, they have the opportunity to socialize, observe the world around them in a new way and practice the creative process.
Please take a look at the JHP Instagram (jhproject) to view some of their photographs. http://instagram.com/jhproject#
On Veterans Day, Maureen McNeil, Executive Director of Josephine Herrick Project announced the start of a free photography program for veterans at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. Veteran Sheridan Dean commented on his experience in JHP photography programs at the Brooklyn VA. and how he has now become an assistant photography teacher at Genesis program for Services for the Under Served.
NBC Today Show “Hope to it” segment on The Josephine Herrick Project and our program at the Brooklyn VA was featured this morning! It’s a wonderful segment that illustrates how “the power of photography” can make a differnce in the lives of Veterans and other underserved populations.
Special thanks to the NBC Today Show for doing and amazing piece on JHP, to Matt Sweetwood for leading the charge in “sharing our story” across many platforms, to professional photographer and instructor for this program Camille Tokerud, to Beryl Brenner, recreation & creative arts therapist at the VA and to Maureen McNeil, our Executive Director who puts her heart and soul into creating and implementing programs and making sure our organization continues to help others through the power of photograhy.
We were so excited to learn that Sahara Borja, a JHP Volunteer Photographer had been awarded a Fullbright Scholarship to document Columbia’s “City of Women.” Sahara has beenI teaching a program for JHProject at the Birch Family Services where once a month a group of teens visit a cultural destination to photograph, such as Coney Island, the High Line, The Wax Museum, The Museum of Natural History, and the Botanical Garden. She was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in Modesto and San Francisco, California. She received my Bachelor of Arts in Film Theory from Vassar College and in 2009 graduated from the One Year Certificate Program in Photojournalism from The International Center of Photography in New York City.
Here’s a little information about the journey that Sahara will undertake in July 2014 to utilize her photographic and journalistic skills to document Colombia’s “City of Women.”
Colombia’s Mothers of Invention: A Portrait of Alternative Societies and Creative Survival in Turbaco by Sahara Borja
Though the direct translation of the word “empowered” does not exist in Spanish, perhaps one day it will. From the beginning of my research on The City of Women and the League of Displaced Women, I recognized this female population as empowered; they embody this word entirely. About a decade ago, with the support of a lawyer named Patricia Guerrero and several international grants, a few hundred internally displaced women fled to the town of Turbaco, roughly 20 kilometers south of Cartagena, Colombia. Their intentions were clear: to find a refuge in which they could build a dignified life for themselves as a viable community based on justice, gender equality, and self-sufficiency. These women make up most of the group called “La Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas,” or, the League of Displaced Women, an organization that continues to fight for the right to peace and security in what is now known as Colombia’s “City of Women.” The area surrounding Cartagena, in the province of Bolivar, is a region of the country that has seen many of the internally displaced (mostly women and children) arrive at its famous walls. Thus, they asked one another, how do we want to live, and how can we do just that?
When I was teaching English in Cali, Colombia, in 2006, I was struck by what I saw as the emergence of functionally matriarchal families; that is, households run by single mothers and related females, completely void of men as active husbands, fathers or other adult relatives – including that of my own extended family. Where have all the men gone? I wondered. To what do we owe this social shift, and to what extent can women in these conditions ever consider themselves the agents of their own destinies?
My project will document the women of Turbaco via photography and audio/video interviews to highlight the powerful ways in which these women have redefined their lives, and in doing so, renegotiated their statuses as victims of displacement.
How do we act as human beings when pushed to the limit? What survival mechanisms can a demographic pushed to its limits reinvent in the interests of their essential human rights? And what lessons can be gained for societies that will, eventually, have to embrace the life-affirming social models that such women have developed? This is part of the reason the women of Turbaco are so relevant and contemporary, and one of the reasons I want to work in Colombia for the duration of the Fulbright: they are at the forefront of a changing society and redefining what it means to be a woman in a historically patriarchal social terrain. This investigation will also offer a more thorough understanding of a shift in contemporary family and gender dynamics. The way the women of Turbaco live – if not for resistance or interference from outside forces – is a type of utopia, a community that empowers its women and vice versa, a community that thrives on a sense of self, builds skills, rewards the skilled, provides education, health, and sustenance for all its inhabitants, and champions peace and growth over violence and impunity. These acts deserve our attention.
To the best of my knowledge, there has not been an in-depth documentary photo project completed about this community. My goals in collaborating with these women are photographic and academic in nature, but socially based. The approach of this project necessarily lends itself to a cross-cultural collaboration; the strength lies in the ability of photographs to offer the broadest scope for accessible dissemination of the example this community sets for the world, one that will be evident in the finished project. The strength of photography is that pictures lend themselves to cross-cultural engagement, so this approach offers the broadest scope for accessible dissemination of the example this community sets for the world.
To this end, I have been in touch with two professors at the University of Cartagena with whom I will complete coursework that complements the research needed for this project. Both of them are aware of this project’s aims. Under the supervision of Doctor Gloria Bonilla Velez, who teaches in both the history and human sciences departments, I will be involved with the Gender Studies investigation group that touches on subject matter from Anthropology to Contemporary Colombian History. I will enroll in an existing seminar on displacement and current Colombian politics, which is specific to this project’s context, and I would have the additional support of Doctor Rosa Jimenez Ahumada, with whom I would be studying the phenomenon of internal displacement. Formalizing my work in an academic setting and collaborating with these two professors, both experts in their fields, will provide the social and historical fabric that is absolutely necessary to best present this community within the scope of a photographic documentary. Working with them while already in Colombia will be invaluable to pursuing further work there, and greatly inform my photographs in a way that acting as an unsupported photographer would not.
In working with the City of Women, I plan to produce a body of photographic work that serves as witness to their humanitarian efforts. The portraiture aspects of this project will contribute directly to the broader cultural understanding of who these women are and what and how they have reconstructed their reality, highlighting the respect for self as it is in effect in Turbaco. My academic and photography background have prepared me well.Having worked on long-term photography projects in Spanish-speaking communities in both California and New York, combined with the short time I spent teaching English at Colegio Ideas in Cali, Colombia, in 2006, I am well prepared to take on a photographic project that requires deep cultural immersion. In addition to this group of women, I intend to investigate the extent to which these this movements have replicated or influenced other organizations that have sprung up in surrounding areas such as the “Antioquia Women’s Association” and the “Peaceful Path of Women, Bolivar Section.” Before attending the International Center of Photography where I studied Photojournalism, I worked as a photographer for a newspaper called “El Tecolote,” based out of San Francisco’s primarily Latin American Mission district, where I mostly communicated with my subjects in Spanish. Later, while enrolled at the International Center of Photography, I worked on a long-term project with Caribbean and Latina nannies who cared for the children of wealthier parents. Working on these projects solidified my desire to work exclusively in the long-term documentary method and a desire to photograph socially based subject matter, most specifically women’s issues.
With the completion of this project, I expect to gain a fuller understanding of the women of Turbaco and the conditions surrounding their experience as women facing displacement. In turn, this project will help to disseminate a collective portrait of a particular facet of Colombia that has previously been overshadowed in daily news outlets in favor of the familiar stereotype we are inundated with in the United States. The photographs and multimedia made during the Fulbright year will offer a visual testament to the peacekeeping efforts of these women, and culminate in a body of documentary, lens-based work that would emphasize the impact their project has had on the women as well as on the greater community. Its completion will also inform how I carry out documentary projects in the future while working towards a PhD in Visual Anthropology. I would also try to see the work published in a number of photography journals. I hope to maintain ties to Colombia via my photography and to work with NGO’s, writers, and journalists, to further a visual narrative that continues to explore the conditions of women in Colombia.
“I see a lot more than I would just looking at something.”
This statement from a veteran-student of the JHP, Mr. Anthony Soto, simplifies yet embodies the mission of the Josephine Herrick Project. I spent a week with the JHP in order to see how beneficial some time behind, or in front of, a camera can be for veterans. I was given a glimpse into the world of Josephine Herrick and veterans that revealed the origins and future of the JHP. This experience working with a variety of images and visiting the St. Albans VA gave me, a weeklong volunteer/intern/student, an opportunity to be involved with a deep and intriguing organization that is close to my heart.
The beginning of my project and week included sorting through hundreds of photographs from the 1940s, the early days of the JHP. These depicted the veterans from World War II being taught photography at the St. Albans VA by the women of the V.S.P. (Volunteer Service Photographers), a.k.a. Josephine Herrick and her friends. Darkrooms designed to be portable are featured heavily in these photographs; the men too injured to venture around the hospital were thus able to have the same artful experience. As the years progress, the photographs change from ones documenting the soldiers’ lessons with the women teachers to their own art. Their models at first were each other, so that the end products could be sent to the veterans’ loved ones. My favorite images, however, are the ones where a pinup model would visit the hospital.
Photographs from the St. Albans VA were the most common that I came across, as it was the first hospital to accept the VSP in 1942. These men with a variety of health concerns proved that beyond the veteran or disabled or any other label, there was also a creative side. Contests began in the early 1950s for these individuals, where any one of their photographs could be submitted for the annual prize. One soldier was given first place for an image of a Korean orphan during the Korean War. He stands on crutches with Josephine Herrick herself in a photograph depicting his win and his artistic contribution. Others look to nature or loved ones, a theme still present in the JHP veteran’s programs.
One such program was brought back to St. Albans last spring by the JHP. These men are not the young veterans we see on the news from Iraq and Afghanistan, but the ones from Vietnam and still even WWII. Given wheelchairs for mobility and cameras as an eye, these men were able to capture their lives at the St. Albans VA similarly to those from the 1940s. Images of hawks outside of windows, or the hands of a fellow vet holding one of the newer Canon digital SLR models show a simple but apt eye for the photography world. These men no longer need portable darkrooms; instead a printer is brought after the annual Holiday Party, and family members are able to immediately take away that prized image of a loved one.
Photo: Maureen McNeil, Executive Director and Katie Despeaux
These opportunities bring a newfound curiosity to these men. This whole project “gives them something they can think about,” as fellow vet Mr. Soto told Maureen and me during our St. Albans’ visit. The drive to learn something new and do something better gives the veterans a hobby in the hospital, particularly in the summer months. But just the simple printing out of a photograph brings joy to these individuals, as Mr. Soto emulated: “And the photographs, like, wow, I did that?” With a push to continue and expand the program at St. Albans with exhibits and a certificate program, it was easy to see that even 72 years later Josephine Herrick’s influence still reigned strongly.
These humble origins as a community service provider, however, set the foundations for the growing influence the JHP would have on the New York City community. Under the name of V.S.P., these women extended their reaches to the other VAs in NYC and eventually to rehabilitation clinics, children hospitals, Autistic children, and blind individuals. During my week at the office, it was clear that there’s a desire to further these programs to a variety of different groups. While still maintaining the existing programs, one goal is to extend the camera’s reach to female populations, including veterans. The camera is an easy way to engage a group of people who may feel left out or misunderstood, which the JHP understands inherently.
JHP student, intern, photo book creator, Akeem Bonaparte
I was able to firsthand see these influences from my meeting at St. Albans and an interview with current JHP star, Akeem Bonaparte, who published his own JHP project in a book this past year. The importance of this project extends beyond providing an interesting skill or hobby to individuals, but to giving a sense of hope, purpose, or belongingness. One week provided a glimpse into this blossoming world and yet it’s something that will stay with me and inspire me to continue working with veterans, just as Josephine Herrick intended.
About the Author
Katie Despeaux is a senior at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. She found out about the JHProject while on the Humans of New York blog. She ia a Clinical Psychology (and French) major with an Art/Art History minor. She is passionate about the veteran population. Her future goals include studying clinical psychology on a doctorate level and to one day work at a VA hospital. Photography has also been one of her passions since I she was 14 years old. Katie spent a week with us at JHP as a volunteer intern immersing herself in our archives, visiting veterans in our current programs and learning how the “power of photography” makes and amazing difference to their lives.
A million thanks to all of you who made 2013 a fantastic year for JHP. Kudos to our students, their families, our partners at schools, hospitals and social service agencies, the photo industry, the 84 photographers who contributed to the success of our November 4th photo auction, our volunteer teaching photographers, and our board of directors! I am filled with joy about the generosity of our community.
It was also a year of growth for me, witnessing how the art of photography brings about social justice in our programs. Last February, curious to learn more about the magical work of our founder, Josephine Herrick, I flew to Buffalo to meet her nephew Skip Herrick and hear some of the family stories.
. The Herricks are well educated, hard working citizens and leaders in the fields of law and medicine in many states. No wonder Josephine accomplished so much! This fall I met with SVA art historian Bonnie Yohelson, a Clarence White expert. He was Josephine’s mentor in the 1920s who believed in women’s equality, working photographers like Josephine and Margaret Bourke-White. And with the help of sound expert Jeff Berman, we digitized some 1950s radio shows in our archives of both Josephine Herrick and Margaret Bourke-White pitching for this organization!!! Very cool. Stay tuned—we plan to share it with you!
Josephine continues to be an excellent role model for young people today. She showed by example that giving to others makes humans feel good. This is something we try to instill in our students. If you have not yet given to JHP, please press the donate button on our home page and become an active member of the JHP community. Give now before the end of the year!
On May 21, Josephine Herrick Project’s executive Director Maureen McNeil and videographer Kristen Jensen made a trip to Buffalo, New York to visit Josephine Herrick’s nephew, Skip Herrick to talk about his “Beloved Aunt Josephine,” our organizations incredible founding woman.
Skip and and his wife Joy live on what was once Skip’s father’s 100 acre estate, a serene setting with a large pond where his father took his daily swim. Skip described Josephine as well educated and well traveled, like the rest of the Herrick clan. She was also fiercely independent, a brilliant business woman, and did not like to have her photograph taken. Skip and Aunt Josephine or “Doe Bun” as the family called her, bonded at age six when she took him to downtown Cleveland to watch the steam engines roll in. As he grew older, he sensed that she was doing important work in New York City, associating with famous photographers, working in the city she loved, but there were subjects “Aunt Josephine” never talked about: her secret work on the Manhattan Project during WWII, and boyfriends. He doesn’t know what became of her favorite Leica camera or her photographs exhibited in the Cleveland Museum of Art. When Josephine died age 75, Skip accompanied her casket to the family burial ground in Cleveland.
Learning about Josephine Herrick’s accomplishments is one of the many goals at JHP. As an artist and changemaker, she enhanced the lives of over 100,000 Americans by providing photography programs to people in-need, and today she continues to be a role model for people everywhere. If you have stories you would like to share about Volunteer Service Photographers, Rehabilitation Through Photography, Josephine Herrick, or Jean Lewis, who worked at the organization from 1947 to 2009, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RTP taps non-profit management director with a strong background in arts & culture to lead our fundraising efforts, drive revenue and create new programs.
New York, NY, September 28, 2012
RTP, Rehabilitation Through Photography announces the hiring of a new executive director, Maureen McNeil. Maureen comes to this new position with a strong background in the arts and culture, and most importantly, over 10 years experience in Non-profit management. She has a proven track record of working with board members. She has served as a spokesperson for organizations on a national and international broadcast media basis. Maureen is recognized as a true leader in the field of arts and culture.
For Maureen, RTP is a great fit. She believes that visual and verbal storytelling can help solve the problems of the world. As a published author of poetry and short stories, she has two books currently with literary agents, Dear Anne Frank: Writing Diaries Behind Bars, co-authored with Cynthia L. Cooper, and The Red Diary, a work of fiction about the last seven months of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Read more