"You find so many things that're unhealthy out here -- they just don't see it yet, don't realize it. So when you take a picture of it, it just brings it to life." Those are the words of West Oakland student Champale Holmes, one of the many who are participating in a 5 week long UCSF driven initiative to use photography as a way to start conversations with young people about health and the state of their community. In parts of east and west Oakland, life expectancy is a full 10 years less than it is in the more affluent hills neighborhoods, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department.
"You never really know until you really look at it, and that's what i think the camera's doing -- really giving you a opportunity to look at stuff and open your eyes," says student Hasinnie Bennett.
But more than doing the important work of empowering the students to see their communities in a new light -- observe the good and bad around them to help move towards a more constructive future -- the UCSF project organizers found insight from the photographs and responses presented by the students. "It gives me a foundation to ask questions I maybe wouldn't have asked if I hadn't done this project," says Sidra Bonner, a medical student at UCSF. This project and its photographs help them connect with the communities they will one day serve, and make them more empathetic and intelligent practitioners in their field.