A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Fate of the Family Dog: Wesley-Rankin Kids’ Photos Capture Poignancy
West Dallas students reflect lives touched by immigration and gentrification.
By LINDA S. JOHNSON
You see it in the close-up of a dog.
The children of the Wesley-Rankin Community Center were loaned cameras to take pictures of their world. Many depict humble families, some headed by immigrants, and their modest neighborhoods. Some reflect aspirations like that of a budding violinist. The seen-but-unseen is the gentrification of close-in West Dallas, leading to the eviction of one family and an uncertain future for its dog.
The students’ photos were displayed for a one-night exhibit, “Our World: Behind the Camera,” at Wesley-Rankin, drawing proud parents and other fans.
Photographer Linda Winski started the Wesley-Rankin Photography Club this school year by happenstance.
Wesley-Rankin’s GOh GOh Girls (Girls of Hope, Girls of Honor) traveled to Temple Emanu-El, where Winski’s women’s group put on a tea for the fourth- through eighth-graders.
“I took all of their pictures during the tea, and when I came to deliver the pictures, Natalie and I talked about a photography club,” she said.
Natalie is Natalie Breen, director of children’s education at Wesley-Rankin, who helped establish the program. Wesley-Rankin, an outreach of The United Methodist Church, bought six cameras for the students to use.
Boys were in and out of the biweekly club meetings, but the girls thronged to the program.
The results give telling insights into everyday lives.
It’s 12-year-old Citlaly’s dog in the photo. Her family lived in a house owned by HMK, the company that ordered tenants to move out in a dispute with the City of Dallas over deteriorating properties. The West Dallas homes, while worth little themselves, sit on land where values are soaring as trendy developments arise.
The dog is about 7, Citlaly said, and the family has had him “since he was like a baby. He has been protecting us, caring about us, being brave for us.”
The family has since found a new home, and the dog will be able to stay “for a while.”
Perla’s photo shows her mom walking along a series of newly constructed highway pillars. Perla and her mother walk together every Saturday morning, and on “that particular morning, Perla’s mom was walking ahead of her under the bridge when she photographed her mother’s small figure beneath the looming structure,” Winski said.
“Walking and walking. It’s like she’s walking away from us and never coming back again,” says Perla’s description.
Loreto did a portrait of an ice cream peddler, his cart emblazoned with “La Super.” She said the scene reminds her of her parents’ hometown, San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Cassandra focused in on her violin, transforming it into an abstract against a gravel background. That’s the part of the instrument where the bow goes in the photo. “The violin is the key to my heart,” she says in her description.
Victoria said the girl in her photo evokes sadness — “the wind in her hair, she looks sad, the stuff in her hands.” She also likes the play of the light in the background.
Rebka “loved the sun in my face,” a sunbeam stripped across her eyes in her self-portrait. “The sunset was beautiful and colorful. I felt calm.”
“After working with the students throughout the year, I saw their confidence and self-esteem blossom,” Winski said. “Personally, I gained so much from the experience of being involved with the students of Wesley-Rankin. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspires me to be a better photographer.”
She’ll be back this summer.
“At summer camp, I plan to teach a one-time Introduction to Photography class for new students,” she said. “For my students over the past year, we are planning a field trip to a photography gallery, Photographs Do Not Bend.”