Images Reveal City's Richness


By: Lisa DeStefano
Date: Sunday, Apr 6, 2008
Publication: Portsmouth Herald

Editor's note: The writer is the founder of DeStefano Architects in Portsmouth.

By Lisa DeStefano

FOCUS. That was the title of a Portsmouth Middle School photographic and photojournalism project I was invited to participate in as a guest judge about a year ago. This project exemplifies community at its finest. From funding to volunteering, educating and organizing to reviewing the 13,000 photographs taken by over 160 Middle School students, the project was a true collaborative effort.

When I received my task, the photographs had been culled to just 800 images. Just 800! And I was instructed along with the other guest judges to select my favorite image — the one that best reflected my views on community — from a variety of perspectives such as, neighborhood, people at work, and elements of design.

This was a big task, but I was able to sit quietly with the images and was amazed and grateful for the opportunity to view our community through these talented students' eyes.

As I reflected on each of the categories, I could see a real depth and thoughtfulness coming from behind the lens. It made me realize how much of what we all treasure about our community is taken for granted in our busy lives.

It was an even higher honor to have participated when DeStefano Architects with its design team was awarded the work for the Middle School expansion project.

The photography project helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the young people we would be designing for. I attended Portsmouth Middle School myself, so I feel a true connection, but now even more so having had the chance to get acquainted with the young people of our city through their own creative expression.

I'd like to acknowledge Robin McIntosh and the Citywide Neighborhood Committee for organizing this wonderful undertaking, members of the Seacoast Camera Club for all their participation, photographers Nancy Horton; Marinanne Pernold Young and Sofia Piel for their work with the students; the teachers at Portsmouth Middle School who embraced the breadth and depth of the project; and my fellow judges, Mayor Tom Ferrini, former Mayor Steve Marchand, Judy Rigmont of the N.H. Council on the Arts, Nancy Notis of Portsmouth Rotary; Jay Gibson of Piscataqua Savings Bank, Janet Champlin of the Portsmouth Police Department; and Newington Selectman Jan Stuart.

The final selection of images is being compiled into a book that will be sold in local bookstores and at least one photograph from every student will be included. How great is that?

There are also plans for a downtown art show when the book is released later this year. As Sandra Day O'Connor said, "We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something."

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