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Youth in Focus: A story that lens itself to art

Florangela Davila
Khatsini Simani is documenting downtown Seattle as part of a summer participant in the Youth in Focus program. The program empowers young people through photography.

A busy street with lots of cars, bikes and people rushing from one place to another. Except for that one person over there with a camera ... and that one over there.

They're students with Seattle's Youth in Focus (YIF) program who are documenting the area around Second Avenue and Cherry in downtown Seattle.

(See the photos on Flickr, if your mobile device doesn't support Flash.)

It's part of YIF's summer Storefront project. YIF moved into an empty gallery space as part of the city's Storefronts initiative and students are using it as both launching pad and marketing venue.

They serve as gallery hosts. They process their photos on a computer screen visible to pedestrians. And the once-empty gallery walls now showcase their work.

YIF will sell the photos as part of the First Thursday Art Walk on Sept. 1.

3,000 and counting

YIF teaches digital and film photography classes to students for free out of its offices in Rainier Valley. Since its founding in 1994, it's served approximately 3,000 students, mostly students of color as well as those facing a variety of personal challenges. Professional photographers serves as instructors and as mentors.

The students say photography impacts them in many ways:

"Every time I take a picture it's sort of like I go on a new adventure around the world." – San Chen. "It makes you feel good about yourself. It gives you something to focus your energy on and really explore." – Leiah Rasmussen. "I feel like I see the world differently. So this is just another way to capture my viewpoint." – Morgan Kluck. "For me art has been emotionally healing." – Khatsini Simani

Simani, who first learned photography at Lakeside School, is now an advanced student at YIF. She's  19 and just completed her first year of college in California. This summer she's been paired up with professional artist/photographer Misha Huntting, who gives her an idea to experiment with a mannequin in a store window.

If Simani poses a human in front of the window, she can capture the reflection of a human face on the mannequin. The resulting photo is surreal and ethereal-looking.

The image as well as a collage of photos shot this summer hang in the YIF gallery at 604 2nd Ave. through Sept. 21.

Artscape” is a weekly KPLU feature covering Northwest art, performances and artists. The feature is published here on Sundays and airs on KPLU 88.5 on Monday during Morning Edition, All Things Considered and on Weekend Saturday Edition.