FotoFest 2012
Literacy Through Photography

FotoFest caps off a successful Biennial with a look at work from Houston area schools

FotoFest caps off a successful Biennial with a look at work from Houston area schools

After regrouping from the six-week barrage of talks, tours and reviews that made up this year's International Biennial, FotoFest turns its sights on Houston schools with its annual FotoFence show — a week-long exhibition celebrating the work of area students participating in the organization's Literacy Through Photography (LTP) program.

In advance of Sunday's opening reception from 2 to 4 p.m., CultureMap stopped by FotoFest headquarters at 1113 Vine Street for a preview tour of the exhibit with LTP program director Kristin Skarbovig. First, we had to resolve the issue of the event's mysterious name.

"The very first LTP exhibition in 1990 . . . was literally hung on a fence," she laughed. "It was when the Biennial was in the George R. Brown and as they took down the international art, they brought in student work and displayed it on this moveable fence." 

The name stuck and the event has since been held each spring.

FotoFence 2012 displays a whopping 900 end-of-year  student projects from nearly 30 schools that use LTP lesson plans designed to increase both visual and verbal literacy.

On view from Sunday through May 26, FotoFence 2012 displays a whopping 900 end-of-year student projects from nearly 30 schools that use LTP lesson plans designed to increase both visual and verbal literacy.

"Traditionally the very final lesson in the LTP curriculum is a photography and writing collage," Skarbovig explained. "The students have all studied art history at this point in the program so they've looked at Picasso and Braque and how artists combine imagery and text."

Projects ranged from small digitally-rendered assemblages to works pieced together with hand-cut prints and construction paper. The only parameter is that a corresponding personal essay must be integrated into each piece.

"The written portion is always inspired by the photography — and vice versa," she said, motioning towards a set of the exhibition's most pared-down projects, which employ only a photograph of the student and a brief self-reflective paragraph for a rather powerful result.

"Students have several major exercises that influence the work they do throughout the school year," Skarbovig noted. "The main task is 'reading' photographs, learning how to look at visual imagery and analyze and comprehend it in the same way you'd examine text. They also reverse the process to explore written words with photography."

She stresses that the curriculum is geared to enhance writing and critical thinking skills with the development of personal creativity a happy byproduct of the year-long process.

This year's FotoFence stretches across two floors of the Vine Street Studios complex FotoFest calls home, offering one of the largest exhibits of student work the organization has ever staged. Free and open to the public, Sunday's opening reception from 2 to 4 p.m. includes music and talks as well as a variety of food options.

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This year's annual FotoFence exhibit displays roughly 900 student projects from FotoFest's in-school education program, Literacy Through Photography. Teen Photography Contest