CLARKSDALE – Images captured by youth showcasing revitalization here are on display in unused storefronts in the downtown area.

Last month for the first time, seven students from Clarksdale High School and Lee Academy participated in a week-long training to document revitalization in Clarksdale through the eyes of youth. This documentary photography workshop was hosted by award-winning filmmakers Chandler Griffin and Alison Fast.

A window display informs about the student media project. Credit: Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

At the end of workshop, the students produced three-minute documentaries highlighting local businesses and leaders in the communities.

Currently, 17 five by five photos taken by the participants are hanging in unused windows on Yazoo Avenue. They were placed in the storefronts just in time for the 14th annual Juke Joint Festival, a half-blues, half-small town fair here this past weekend.

For two years, Griffin and Fast had conversations about creating a photo workshop for youth in the area. One of the end results was to print five foot images to place in empty building windows, said Griffin. Griffin noted that four volunteers helped to hang the photos in the windows which included Emily Rodriguez and Jack Bobo from Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc who donated money to hang the photos.

“Seeing my pictures in the window made me feel like it helped to revitalize Clarksdale in my own way,” said Sarah Levingston, a Lee Academy student and participant. “I didn’t build a house or anything, but I did shed light on a person who helped to revitalize Clarksdale everyday.”

Levingston went on to say she received positive feedback about her images and video during the festival.

The feedback didn’t stop there. According to Griffin, Alison Fullilove, one of the participants in the workshop received 1,000 plays on Vimeo for her photo story. 900 of those plays came from directly scanning the QR code on her photos.

“It’s creating interactive art,” said Griffin.

(From left) Michaela Wells, Sarah Levingston, and Nickalus Jones, a few students from the workshop take a selfie with Laeitta Wade, mentor and Delta State University graduate, at a recent screeing of their work.  Credit: Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

Michaela Wells, another Lee Academy student and participant, said seeing her photos on display was surreal and left her speechless.

“Just thinking about how thousands of people from all over the world came to Clarksdale, Miss. for Juke Joint this past weekend and saw my photos leaves me feeling giddy,” Wells said. “When I see my work and all of my friend’s work hanging downtown, I can’t help but to feel a sense of pride.”

QR codes are plastered at the bottom of the photos to allow viewers to see three-minute photo stories.

“The stories are a way for visitors to interact with this town of 17,000, support community projects, and share its vision for the future,” said Fast. She said the images will remain on display throughout 2017 to mark the Mississippi Bicentennial.

The Clarksdale program was the first of 10 community workshops the two will host throughout the state.

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.