Our Mentors – Alison Harbaugh

In this new blog series, VisionWorkshops hopes to highlight our incredibly diverse and talented group of mentors. Acting as teachers, assistants and friends to our students, our mentors work across all our programs. We hope their experiences with our students and programs as told by them will add another chapter to the story that is VisionWorkshops.

I own my own business, Freckle Photography, so my day job not only is as a photographer, but as a business owner as well. I document weddings and children, but I also do corporate events now and then. I am slowly making the transition into travel and documentary photography, and plan to be doing more of that in the coming year. I also teach at a private art studio in downtown Annapolis called Already Artists, where we work with kids, ages 3-10. I assist in teaching the kids about different artists, old and new, and then we create some awesome artwork.

I work with VisionWorkshops because… for one, I love teaching and working with kids of all ages. It’s so cool to see the switch flip on when they begin to grasp a technique…it never fails to make me smile. Second, in teaching, I learn so much about myself and my profession. Sometimes it’s great to step back to the basics of photography and just shoot. VisionWorkshops students always amaze me with the images they produce which pushes me to let go and view the world around me with new eyes. Most of all though, it’s their stories that really touch me. Getting to learn about another culture, and reading/listening to their words when they describe where they come from, who their families are and how they see themselves with such passion, really brings it all home.

I’ve participated in all of VisionWorkshops programs: Insights – The Identity Project, The Bates Middle School and Annapolis Senior High workshops of Crossing Borders, and a National Geographic Photo Camp in Washington, D.C.

One student that I always think about is Maddie in an Insights workshop. She was as hard as can be. Kirsten paired us up on the first day for an ice breaker. I was probably as nervous as she was to be there…here was this tough girl who I knew nothing about – except that she was in trouble for something that got her sent to the Drug Court… and I was this naive girl with little knowledge of that world. It was intriguing to me, yet a bit frightening. “How do I even begin to talk to her,” I thought. Well, the ice breaker worked, and we bonded immediately. Over the next few weeks we became quite close. By the end of the session, Maddie had dreams of being a photographer. It really taught me a lot about people, but most of all it made me realize that I can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing the skills that I have.

The Insights program by far has been my most memorable and favorite experience. Seeing kids who have issues, with either drugs or alcohol, show up to learn about photography and writing and watching them become better people in 10 weeks time is really rewarding. So many kids just need an outlet for their energy and being creative and expressing themselves is the perfect way to begin to recognize who they are and who they wish to become. – Alison Harbaugh

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