Pictures of Hope workshop created by photojournalist Linda Solomon helps Napa County students photograph their life dreams

NAPA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) — Going to college. To help those in need. To find a talent that I’m really proud of. To find peace and allow myself some love. These are just a few of the many comforting dreams written by a group of Napa County students who recently participated in a workshop called Pictures of Hope.

The program, created by internationally renowned photojournalist Linda Solomon, teaches students the power of photojournalism.

At a recent workshop at the Culinary Institute of America in Copia, each student was surprised with their own camera and then challenged to share their hopes and dreams through photography.

“Sometimes it’s very difficult to verbally share something deep inside,” Solomon told ABC7 News. “But through an art form, through photojournalism, it’s often easier to share something so personal.”

It’s something deeply personal for Solomon, who got his first camera at age 5 and went on to pursue his career as a photojournalist in Detroit. She was Aretha Franklin’s longtime personal photographer and published the book “The Queen Next Door.”

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Her greatest passion, however, is sharing her love of photography with the next generation. She created Pictures of Hope to help young people in underserved communities find inspiration through pictures, to learn how a single photo can change the world and your own sense of self.

“A photo can change a life,” Solomon said. “But you just have to give this kid a chance.”

Solomon has brought Pictures of Hope to dozens of cities across the country. She recently hosted a workshop with 14 middle and high school students who are part of the Napa County Schools after-school program. She came at the personal request of Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nemko, who noticed that many students were struggling after two years of the pandemic.

Nemko said she often talks to graduate students who haven’t thought about what they want to study. She hoped Pictures of Hope would help students think about it now.

During Solomon’s workshop, students are encouraged to write down their hopes and dreams. They then take their new camera and take pictures to represent these aspirations.

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“We just need to show how these kids don’t dream of iPhones,” Solomon said. “They dream of things that really matter.”

Among the students participating in the workshop: Jonathan Ihrag, 12 years old. His dream? To help someone.

After a 20-minute walk around the Culinary Institute of America and nearby Oxbow Public Market, Jonathan spotted an older couple holding hands and helping each other. He took a photo.

“So what I did, I found two super nice people holding hands, and, well, she was helping him,” Jonathan explained.

Another student, Addison Andrews, dreamed of equality. She gathered a diverse group of people and asked them to put their hands in a circle.

“I feel like it was showing ages, it was showing different races…I think it was a good example or a demonstration of equality,” Addison, 13, said.

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The workshop will end with an exhibition on Monday May 23 at the Culinary Institute of America in Copia. Solomon printed each student’s photo, along with their dream, on a set of note cards. These cards will be sold to the public and 100% of all proceeds will go to the Napa County Unified School District after-school leadership and enrichment program.

All members of the community are welcome to attend the exhibit on May 23 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Those wishing to purchase a set of note cards can do so here.

“Every child needs this chance to share a dream,” Solomon said. “And know that it can come true.”

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