Photography and Literacy Exhibit in Bird Library

Selections from the Photography and Literacy Project (PAL) show “Can You See Me?” are currently on display in a new gallery space on the 6th floor of Bird Library, a collaboration between the Library and the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).

The show is the result of a collaboration between Adam Lutwin’s 11th grade English class at Fowler High School and the Photography and Literacy Project. Fowler students were given digital cameras and journals to complete specific photo and writing assignments. Under the guidance of SU student mentors, students selected their best work for display.

Based on the ongoing work of SU instructor Stephen Mahan of VPA, PAL provides an opportunity for local students to explore their world through photography, video and sound to promote critical thinking skills, writing, visual literacy and self-esteem. Mahan started his work at SU a few years ago by collaborating with the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), CMAC, VPA, the Partnership for Better Education, the Creative Writing Program, Light Work, and other area institutions. At its core, the project encourages students to explore their world as they photograph, film, and capture sound recordings from their world and their lives, and then use their documents as prompts for verbal and written expression.

Mahan, who often quotes British author and education expert Sir Ken Robinson’s line about schools ‘filled with brilliant kids who think they are not,’ says his passion for using photography as an educational tool began while he was a graduate student at the University of Buffalo in the 1990s. “Our educational system is set up to deal most effectively with one type of learner… so what I try to do is even the playing field by using a camera as a storytelling device that articulates and validates each individual’s point of view, which builds self esteem. When the pictures are all laid out on the table, it is impossible to tell which kid has difficulties, and that is what motivates my passion, ” says Mahan.

The PAL project has been featured in Syracuse Magazine, Jerk Magazine, and other articles. For more information, contact Mahan at

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