Storytelling and Identity: Photography Workshops for High School Students

A Peacemaking Project by Elle E.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Injustice: Reclaiming narrative control for communities whose stories are told for them rather than by them. With this project I propose to use photography as a platform for individuals and communities to reclaim narrative control. I would like to set up photography workshops at a high school in Boston (Burke High School in Dorchester, a school I worked at last year) and meet once a week after school with students. During these workshops we would work on building the students' photography skills while exploring photography as a tool for telling their stories. The longterm aim of the workshops would be to provide a space for students to reclaim narrative control of their own lives, identities, and stories, and to provide them with the tools for doing so.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of unbalanced power and racism in Boston communities
we will address the issue of who has narrative control
by organizing photography workshops for high school students in BPS in order to build skills in visual storytelling.

Our Project Plan:


  • Reach out to the Burke High School to confirm if I can be an after-school partner to engage students in this project.
  • Develop a curriculum for the school year.
  • Find a location where students can develop their film themselves. Figure out after-school transportation.
  • Reach out to local businesses to donate camera supplies by February 28th.
  • Provide students with the supplies to complete these projects: film cameras, film, photo paper, etc.
  • Go to the Burke after-school once a week to engage students in 1-1.5 hour long workshops in camera fluency, project assignments, and studies of how photography can be a tool for social justice.
  • Help students develop a sense of self-empowerment and self-efficacy through photography!

We will increase my / our compassion by...

I think the proximity to students and the mission of increasing spaces for narrative control would increase my compassion because it would keep me connected to issues and people I care deeply about.

How will you show courage?

I will show courage by staying committed to the goals and mission of this project, even if difficulties arise or the planned path of the workshops changes throughout the year.

How will you collaborate with others?

I will collaborate with the students, administrators at the school, and other community partners to ensure that I have the resources necessary to build this program and that students are getting the most out of this experience.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

I'll know that I'm moving in the right direction if students are really engaged in the photography assignments and projects and are excited to tell their stories through this platform.

Key Steps

  • Meet with a current service partner at the Burke High School to figure out logistics of being an after-school partner.
  • Reach out to administrators at the Burke High School by March 30th to confirm if I can be an after-school partner to engage students in this project.
  • Develop a curriculum for the school year by February 28th.
  • Apply for a mini-grant.
  • Figure out cost of supplies by February 9th.
  • Reach out to local businesses and larger corporations to request donations of cameras, equipment, and film supplies by February 9th.

Our Updates:

Photo Workshop Program Booklet

Elle E. 13 September 2018 11:50 I recently created this program booklet to distribute to the students participating in the workshop. This booklet is meant to introduce and frame the program to the students, giving a sense of what to expect from the year! View it here:


Fish S.
21 November 2017 15:29

Hi Elle -- sounds like an awesome project. Love the idea of giving students narrative control by helping them develop storytelling skills through photography. Do you have a curriculum you plan to follow? Can we help with that?

We're ready to support your project however we can -- including through mini-grants of up to $250! -- so let us know where you need help.

Elle E.
27 November 2017 14:12

I don't currently have a curriculum planned, but I was a part of a similar photography course in high school and I was thinking about following what I did then as a baseline. I want to start by building a skillset and reviewing photography basics, and then build with photography as a platform for social justice and how they can use it as a tool. I would definitely love receiving help with planning that curriculum though!

Fish S.
29 November 2017 9:21

Hi Elle, sounds awesome. Love that you're starting with what you know. We'd be happy to help you plan out the curriculum. How long/how many sessions do you think it will last?

Elle E.
1 December 2017 14:40

I'm hoping to do it through the course of a school year, so an hour once a week for 30~ weeks!

Fish S.
11 December 2017 10:16

Hey Elle -- love these project goals. Anything we can do to help?

RaulPF C.
9 February 2018 9:11

Hi Elle,
I am part of the Peace First team and I wanted to provide you with some feedback related to your project insight.
I really, really like the way that you are trying to address a root cause that is overlooked a lot of the time. Do you already have connections with the schools you want to start running the workshops with?
I would love to see how your project evolves!

Elle E.
27 February 2018 8:20

Thank you! Yes, I worked with freshmen at this school last year and am at a different school in the district this year. I'm hoping to reach out to the principal in early April to figure out logistics about running this program!

RaulPF C.
1 March 2018 11:09

Good morning, Elle!
Thanks for your update. I really look forward to hearing how those discussions with the principal go and then hearing how the program goes once you can run it!

Fish S.
9 March 2018 10:26

Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

This project is amazing! Elle, I love your deep thinking about the link between storytelling and justice, and the demonstrated power of photography as a medium for this! I love your goals for the skills you want to empower your students with, and the way collaboration is baked deeply into your project. And I love the level of thought and detail your list of key steps shows! Simply put - I think your insight is strong, your plan is rock-solid, and your compassion is clear. Couldn't be more excited to see the outcome!

Ways to strengthen:
Again, this is a very strong project -- I just have three suggestions.

1. I think you could do more to clarify the link between narrative control and power/racism. Not because I don't understand or agree with your theory -- I'm really excited about it -- but because I think other young people on the site will really benefit from seeing you explain the link between claiming narrative control and building power. (Your students will also benefit from having this explained directly -- so any practice you can get breaking it down in an accessible way will be helpful!)

2. I encourage you to think about developing some formal tools to measure students' self-empowerment and self-efficacy! I have no doubt that your workshops will build these skills in students -- but you'll want to be able to prove it! We can help with this.

3. I hope you'll have your students post their art on the platform, if they're willing -- we would love to see it!

Congratulations and best of luck with your project! Let us know how we can help.

Bobby J.
9 March 2018 12:29

Hi Elle, this is Bobby and I work with Fish at Peace First. I love this project as well. Fish provided some great feedback. I would also add another key part of narrative control is having the power to share our story directly with others. So, with that said, I hope that helping young people to leverage the power of social media and public spaces to tell their stories is part of your work. If you need support in that area, Peace First can help connect you with some social media experts and we would also be happy to help share some of your images and stories through our network. Keep us posted on where and how we can help.