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The Danforth Museum of Art Presents

“ Who I Say I Am”­—Park High School Student Photo Essay

Clockwise from top left: Noah Craig, Koyle Malone, Milo Bradford (detail), Taelor Robbins

The Danforth Museum of Art (DMA) is excited to present Who I Say I AM, photographs and essays by Park High School students enrolled in Photo 2 and Photo 3 Classes. The exhibit is the culmination of in-school workshops arranged in collaboration with the DMA, Park High School and photographer Lizzie Salacinski, a local Livingston resident whose photos are currently on display at the museum.


Who I Say I Am is a class project of Park High art junior and senior photography classes taught by art teacher Sarah Mussetter. The workshops were based on Lizzie Salacinski’s auto-biographical photo essay, Off-Season, currently on exhibition at the DMA. Salacinski’s mixed-media work combines writing with photographs creating pieces that are a personal reflection on growing up in Livingston, an experience Salacinski notes is different from the typical summer tourists’ impressions.


Using their smartphone cameras and the written word, the first objective was to develop each student’s personal narrative voice. The assignment was modeled after a photographic style developed in the 1970s by Stephen Shore on a road trip from Texas to New York. Shore captured a sense of memory and place with pictures of empty streets and abandoned gas stations. The students’ assignment was to find places they once occupied, places from their memory, that tell part of their personal story of growing up in Livingston.


Mussetter, Salacinski, and Storrs Bishop, executive director of the DMA, guided students to use their smartphone cameras as a tool for visually telling stories that convey more than simple snapshots. Combining prose with photos adds another dimension to the narrative.


Mussetter elaborates: “This project was a great challenge and opportunity for my high schoolers. My goal for this collaboration was to help students share their voices and learn to define themselves rather than letting those on the outside do it for them. So often adolescents have a stigma or story attached to them that is not of their design. Peers, parents, teachers/coaches, and society all try to fit teens into a box that makes them easier to understand or manage. The issue is that we are all unique individuals who do not fit into neat little boxes. What matters is who YOU say you are. These photos help students explore themes of identity and memory through place-based storytelling.”


The second objective was to curate four images for a 13-person group exhibit at the DMA. This show offers the students the opportunity to use their own voices to share their stories with the community at large. Through sharing their stories, they shape their own identity rather than being defined by others.


Smartphone photography is one of the most readily available art tools to students across a range of economic backgrounds. The DMA-Park High School collaboration has broadened access for teens to participate in personal storytelling opportunities regardless of economic or social barriers.


This project is made possible through funding by Americas Foundation and extensive in-kind support from The Frame Garden.


The exhibition will run from April 1st to April 22nd, 2024. The museum will host an opening reception on Friday, April 12th, from 5:30-8:00 pm. The reception is free will feature light refreshments. The DMA is located at 106 North Main Street in downtown Livingston. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm. Admission is free.


For more information, please contact DMA Executive Director Storrs Bishop:<storrs@thedanforth.org>.

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