03/30/2012 02:41 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2012

Focus: HOPE Student Photographers Share Their Visions Of Detroit

After many months of adjusting their lenses, trekking around Southeast Michigan and brewing up photos in the darkroom and on computer screens, several Detroit high school students are now ready for their first big public photography exhibit.

The Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography (DCCP) will host the show, which features works from teens in Focus: HOPE's Excel after-school photography program.

"Excel Photography: Works In Progress," will highlight still evolving pieces from current students, along with a retrospective of efforts from the previous school year and a looping video of the student works.


The exhibit will feature more than 80 photos, drawing from the many styles explored in the Excel program: portraits, landscapes, street shots, architecture, commercial and abstract work. Most of the photos are arranged in loose, pin-up style on the gallery walls, but some are framed.

"It's fabulous," said Kyohei Ave, director and chief curator of the DCCP gallery. "There are beautiful black-and-white photographs. ... You can kind of see how students are seeing things, and how they're processing what their instructors are telling to them to do."

Ave said the exhibit provides a fascinating look at how photographic works evolve over time. "You don't typically get to see that process. We wanted to promote that energy and the interest that people have," he said. "It's not just showing the productive end."

An experienced group of professional local mentors has given the program's current crew of 27 students an inside look at how the creative and photographic processes work. The teaching staff includes Melissa Herndon -- who curated the show -- Glenn Corcoran, Gordon Alexander and Lesley Mason.

Excel students meet once or twice a week from October to June. They use 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex) film and professional-grade digital cameras. The classes often involve field trips to different shoot locations around the Detroit area.

Annette Vanover, who manages Focus: HOPE's arts department, said the course teaches students to be professional photographers and to use the camera as an artistic tool.

"They learn all the technical aspects of photography, but also the the artistic techniques: the rule of thirds, using leading lines and perspective," she said. "But we also give them enough room to break rules and use creativity."

According to Vanover, the students have done an excellent job channeling their newly-acquired expertise in the service of creativity.

"You really find that a lot of the students in the show express their emotions and point of view in the photography," she said, "And they're really excited about showing people how they feel about their world and the community around them."

The program, which is funded by a grant, started in October 2010 runs through May of this year, when it will wrap up with another show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

The opening reception for "Excel Photography: Works in Progress," will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 30 and will include brief opening remarks at 7:30 pm. The opening reception is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through April 25.

Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography is located inside the Russell Industrial Center, Building #2, 1st floor, 1600 Clay St, Detroit MI. See for gallery hours.

Catch a sneak peek of the student work in the exhibit below:

Focus: HOPE Excel Student Photography