What is the difference between a community center devoted to photography and a photography school in the community? "Intent!"
At Richard Stromberg's Chicago Photography Classes, we teach you how to get it right in the camera in the first place – "Plus". What's the Plus? We don't just develop images we develop people through Photography. And that's our Mission.
The journey from "Photo I" through to "exhibiting" in a show is one of challenge and personal growth. The operation of the camera will be demystified of course. More importantly you will learn to see: To see light, to see expression, to see the juxtaposition between yourself, your subject and others.
On the journey to a group show you will gain perspective of yourself and others. You will be part of a group of people whose concern is for you to do your best, and your concern will be, for them to do their best. We will provide you with a solid platform and resources that you will use for a one-person show – and on your journey of lifelong learning. Teaching is not our hobby, or part time job, teaching for growth is what we do, it's who we are. Learning will occur.
We are a Community Center in the spirit of Jane Addams who opened her Hull House settlement house in 1889. We don't have a Hull mansion but we don't need one. Jane Addams moved into a community and spent her life working for the betterment of the community and its people. One of the outcomes of that work was organized art programming in public schools. Jane's viewpoint was "art ennobles the soul". That was over a hundred years ago.
For 33 years I worked at Jane Addams Hull House, teaching photography and always looking to help people use their photography skills for self awareness – to use photography to better understand themselves and their friends and family. To use their photography to be more aware of their neighborhood and neighbors, to reveal and share their viewpoint and insights about the world around them.
For 33 years with volunteers and class fees, without being a financial drain on foundations or government agencies, we worked with thousands of people, always trying to broaden their viewpoint and increase their self awareness. The resulting yearly exhibits were titled "WithInSight" and as the program grew, the exhibits became bi-yearly and in the end we exhibited four times a year. The photography program ended because Hull House Association needed money from their most valuable asset, and sold the building.
The 33 years working at Jane Addams Center taught me the value of community. We bank at the Northside Community Federal Credit Union. We make purchases from local businesses whenever we can. We ask for payment by check or money order or cash because the credit card companies charge us fees for handling transactions. The fee drives up the cost of classes. Why give a percentage of the transaction to people that don't care about you or us?
The heart of the photography program is the volunteer instructors. They are highly motivated women and men who teach so they can share their knowledge with others. They in turn were taught by volunteers, and those volunteers were taught by volunteers and the chain goes back to 1969. No hourly wage can compensate them for their work. Money and a job is not their motivation for teaching, community is. Sharing with others what was shared with them.
The volunteers are not paid, but they are not charged either. People get unfettered use of the facilities in exchange for their work. This makes a place and a way for people who may not have all of the money they need to be part of the community. Many people volunteer not for any financial considerations, but because they want to contribute, because they want to help, because they want to keep their life in balance and not take more then they receive. And sometimes just – because.
Richard Stromberg's Chicago Photography Classes exists because of the help and generosity and work of many volunteers, some have been with me for more than 15 years. I THANK THEM. My promise to them: I will do everything I can to not waste their Intent.