Summer Program Allows Kids to 'Shoot Cameras, Not Guns'

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As the summer continues to wind down, a unique program in Atlantic County has just wrapped up.

The Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community held its fourth Summertime Photography Program, exposing children from Atlantic City and Pleasantville to the art of photography.

A number of kids from the cities watched their summer vacation pass by through a camera lens.

“The concept was, instead of the kids getting into mischief, like taking up a gun or something like that, we'd prefer they pick up a camera,” said Perry Mays, chairman for the Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community. “Shoot cameras and shoot photography, [not guns].”

The coalition teaches the students in the program the ins and outs of taking the perfect picture.

I found a lot of my creativity that was buried deep inside, all down here.

“I saw this boat, so I thought if I took a picture of this, it would come out right,” said Dominque Drake, who participated in the program. "When I took the picture, it came out right, and here it is.” 

After getting to explore their hometowns through a different viewpoint, many of the children want to keep up with their new photography hobby.

“I had a lot of fun," said Melodies Alexander, of Pleasantville, "and I think I’m going to be doing it again next year.” 

The staff and the children, who participated in the program, went on a few trips around the county and even traveled up to the Statehouse in Trenton, where pictures from past years can be seen. 

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“I found a lot of my creativity that was buried deep inside, all down here,” said Alexander. “[At first] it was really hard for me to be inspired to take pictures."

Alexander did have a camera before, but traveling with Safe Community gave her the incentive to become more immersed in the art of photography.          

“[At first] it was really hard for me to be inspired to take pictures," said Alexander, "but going to different places gave me inspiration to take pictures." 

Sponsored by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the program allowed photographers to learn about the importance of working hand-in-hand with their local law enforcement as well.

“The forensic program gave another opportunity for kids to see how crimes are solved," said Mays. "And how important it is for a photographer to take pictures to see how crimes can be solved.” 

As summer art lessons end and it’s time to go back to school, their mentors hope the students take their experience and talent towards a bright future.

“By going outside of Atlantic City or outside of Pleasantville, you give the kids a different perspective,” said Mays. “I think it opened up their minds to look at life a little differently.” 

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