This week’s Questions with an Educator features Andreanna Seymore.
Andreanna is a New York, New York-based photographer and educator specializing in documentary and editorial photography. While pursuing her Master’s Degree at Queens College, she ended up co-founding the Literacy and Mathematics through Photography (LAMP) program that combined her experience with both photography and the social sciences. She has also combined her passion for photography and her love of Roller Derby to create a monograph entitled Scars and Stripes: The Culture of Modern Roller Derby. Here, Andreanna explains what led her back to education to pursue an advanced degree, the Literacy and Mathematics through Photography program, and her favorite part about teaching.
We asked: What drove you to earn your Master’s degree in Social Sciences and Urban Affairs after earning your Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography? How have those two degrees complemented one another and affected your business?
Andreanna said: I wanted an advanced degree that would complement my photography, something that would help me put more substance behind my images. Social Sciences enabled me to tackle the wide spectrum of civil issues I was interested in – over time this would prove to be most especially a broad range of women’s issues, but also workers’ rights, education, housing, transportation and understanding what makes society function. Urban Affairs allowed me to focus on issues specific to urban environments, particularly the pedagogy of education. I had a desire to develop a program to serve marginalized youth using photography as a means of self-discovery, as it had been in my own youth. Since then, my advanced degree has informed my entire body of work, assisting me in examining communities, particularly subcultures, and bringing social issues to light through a visual medium.
We asked: Please describe the Literacy and Mathematics through Photography (LAMP) program that you co-developed at Queens College. What were the goals of the program and how did it work?
Andreanna said: During the first year of my Master’s, one of my professors received a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to serve Latino youth populations in underperforming high schools. This was incredibly fortuitous, and I approached her with the idea of starting a photo program to engage Latino students to develop a love for learning in math and literacy skills through photography. The goal of this program was to engage Latino students who were marginalized in the public school system. By reintroducing a positive fun way of learning literacy skills and math skills by using photography as a tool to spark their interest in learning. All of the students in the program were ESL and had fallen behind in their classes. We grew it from a single student to thirty-five students, and ultimately took the same program to San Salvador, El Salvador, where we were able to implement it on a larger scale through the Ministry of Education.
We asked: How do you go about creating a program such as LAMP? What was one of the major challenges you faced during program development?
Andreanna said: How I went about it was also the major challenge. Photography tends to be the work of a lone wolf, so to speak. Creating this program, however, could have never happened without a collaborative effort. I had the vision of what can be learned through an image, but I had to create a team to translate that to the broader program goals. The most significant contribution came from the mathematician who took my ideas and broke down math learning components into practical lessons in photography. In high school, I had only become engaged with math after one of my teachers drew a connection between photography and math. So I wanted to reproduce that for other students. The literacy component was somewhat easier to execute; one of the assignments dealing with the self, utilizing self-portraits and then writing about oneself in both English and Spanish. Beyond the creation of the program, I had to work with a team of educators, directors, CUNY and W. K. Kellogg Foundation personnel, and even government officials, in order to implement the program; all creating intense pressure for a successful program in order to justify the funding.
We asked: What is your favorite part about sharing your knowledge with others through education?
Andreanna said: Learning is a two-way street. If I am not learning, then my students will not learn as much from me. Much of the time, we learn from each other. I love diversity and different walks of life coming together. I love sharing in people’s passions, or seeing someone’s passion develop. It is pretty cool to see something like that blossom. I feel very lucky that teaching photography gives me the opportunity to do so.
We asked: How does your passion for roller derby influence or affect your photography?
Andreanna said: Even though photography has been the air I breathe for so long, the industry is not without its frustrations and complaints. So to go on the track, skate, and hit people is the best. Afterward we all go out and have a drink, and no one complains about photography, only about the bad calls the referees had made.
Find more of Andreanna’s work on her website.