Lens on Life Project is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, supporting photography and computer literacy training for at-risk youth around the world. By cooperating with host organizations on the ground, we aim to engage local communities, empower youth and create settings in which they can share their stories and gain new skills to enter the global marketplace.
Our story began at home with a passion fostered by our late mother, Bonni, to help marginalized youth who are often the victims of some of the most egregious violations of human rights known to mankind.
We took inspiration from the photography gallery she founded in New York City in the 1980's, and from a young age, we always had a camera in our hand. Our father Dennis, a film director of fifty years, provided the technical guidance, and he instilled in us the confidence to go out with a camera and push boundaries to get the right image.
In 2016 we began designing a curriculum to teach photography in an easily understandable format with the ultimate goal that it be a means of providing vulnerable youth a path to empowerment through self expression. We started with the basics: simple digital cameras; short but intense classes, avoiding overly technical or theoretical instruction that would detract from our goal: to help students take photographs that would facilitate engendering a sense of individual pride and community spirit.
Pilot projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Brooklyn, New York, revealed that students quickly solidified their identities — not just as photography students, but also as photographers, harnessing an entrepreneurial spirit. Boys who began taking photos at weddings and local gatherings translated their training into an income while helping to change their communities.
In addition, women who engaged the curriculum showed their communities that they, despite having been targets of rape and domestic violence in the DRC, could equally carry a camera and defy gender stereotypes.
Students were eager to learn more, and so we developed an introductory course for computer literacy with focus on the skills needed to equip themselves for their changing environment, and thus, be prepared to enter the 21st Century job market.
Sam and Jack Powers,
Founders, Lens on Life Project
“Lens on Life has succeeded in creating a ‘voice’ for marginalized youth to express themselves...Lens on Life brings into reality the ‘butterfly effect’ so often talked about – a small event in time that produces a sea-change in people’s lives.”
— Dr. Curt Rhodes, Questscope Founder & International Director