Children see the world differently.
“Being a kid is almost a universal language. They naturally take more risk, and they naturally don’t overthink what they’re trying to capture,” Angela Popplewell said of her nonprofit organization, 100Cameras, which works with kids around the world.
100Cameras provides children ages 10 to 18 with a simple pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera. Many of them have never held a camera before.
Popplewell began the organization in 2008 as an idea that was tested in South Sudan and has since partnered with 27 communities, supporting 364 kids to graduate from their programs, and raised more than $55,000 in photo sales. It aims to grow, as the name suggests, to 100 communities and beyond.
“If kids get the opportunity to document the way they see the world versus the camera pointed from the outside looking in, what story would they have to tell? Would it be different or would it be the same?” Popplewell continued. “It’s a storytelling tool to help kids process and interpret their emotions, past experiences, and look at who they are today, with a look toward the future.”
Popplewell’s background in community development and storytelling spans across the globe, from Romania, India, and locally in Manhattan. As a hobbyist photographer and creative writer, it was a snap to transition into this role full-time.
100Cameras is a platform where kids can sell the images they’ve taken, with all proceeds funding what matters to each community. Each outpost has a partner on the ground that, oftentimes, includes the kids in on the decision-making process. Fund could go to schools, churches, individual homes, or community centers. Every child has a voice through their photography, giving them a sense of control and pride amid unfortunate circumstances. The first exhibit was in a Manhattan apartment. Two months later a show opened up at Time Warner Center with Samsung, and it continues to grow.
“Photography is a universal language. It’s a tool than can really help kids process and express themselves. Words aren’t even needed,” Popplewell said. “It’s family, friends, lots of things that they’re proud of in their community. They are being documented in a way that it’s really refreshing, beautiful, and inspiring. It’s the language of happiness.” They say a picture says 1000 words, and this model gives a voice to the voiceless. Photography doesn’t require translation, an image speaks for itself, and that’s where change takes effect on a global scale.
Across the globe kids love to be kids. Many of the photographs show dancing, jumping, even selfies. However, upon glancing at the website, it’s hard to envision a child, a photography novice, taking these pictures. Nature, architecture, passersby, street art, entryways — it’s all part of the bigger picture.
100Cameras recently completed a program in Kurdistan, Iraq, back in April. Here, they dealt with kids who fled ISIS captivity or had family members that were massacred. After basic needs are met, it’s critical to tend to the emotional damage. The program helped kids cope with loneliness, isolation, depression, and trauma.
“These kids have been through the worst possible thing that you could experience on Earth. And they’re still leaning into that hope.”
The organization will hold a summer pop-up exhibit at Gansett Lane, 55 Main Street, Amagansett, on Saturday, August 10, from 2 to 5 PM. Learn more or buy a print of your own at www.100cameras.org.