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The children hurried along the streets of downtown Wilson, stopping to take photos of whatever caught their eye: a painted fire hydrant, a whirligig, a pretty yellow flower peeking through a fence, a historic marker, the reflection of a church steeple caught in a puddle of muddy water.
The children, from the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, weren’t carrying cellphones Monday afternoon, they were shooting photos with Rebel cameras on loan from Canon USA.
This is the third year that Canon USA and Columbia College Chicago have joined forces to offer hands-on photography lessons to Wilson youth prior to the opening of Eyes on Main Street. Canon brought 30 brand-new cameras for the kids to use.
The outdoor photo festival features 100 photographs displayed for 100 days on storefronts along Nash Street. In addition, there are several more indoor and outdoor exhibits this year, including work by the young photographers.
Peter Fitzpatrick, chairman of the photo department at Columbia, spent time Monday afternoon showing the children how to use the camera before sending them out with a photographer and interpreter so they could try out their new skills.
“We’re going to show you simply what to do,” he told the children through an interpreter.
He showed them how to turn on the camera and use the viewfinder, pointing out that it’s much different from taking a photo with a cellphone.
“Hold the camera up to your eye and press that button,” he told them as the students followed along.
After learning some composition rules, the children were ready to explore downtown with their cameras.
“So experiment,” Fitzpatrick said before they divided up and headed out. “We want you to experiment.”
Mackenzie Harrell, 14, was on of the ENCSD student photographers Monday. She and her classmates walked through the area a block or two off Nash Street and took photos of churches, a bicyclist who stopped to pose, and many more things.
“It’s so much fun,” Mackenzie signed, adding it’s different from taking photos with a cellphone.
The ENCSD students were the first of several groups to take part in the program this week. Others will include The SPOT, Save a Youth and the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.
Fitzpatrick said he and his team come back for the workshops each year because they are interested in supporting the youth of Wilson.
“It’s very exciting for us,” he said.
Fitzpatrick hopes the children get a new appreciation for their town through the use of photography. He also wants them to be self-aware that they can achieve greatness through photography.
The photos taken this year by Wilson children are featured in a slide show that’s visible from the street outside 203 Nash St., across from Dance Studio B. And on Saturday, the children’s work will be exhibited at a party starting at 4:30 p.m. at the same location.
Fitzpatrick voiced his appreciation for Canon, not only for the cameras and photographers who are here but also for the paper and ink Canon supplies for the prints.
“We have a strong relationship with them,” he said.
If you’d like to see the work from last year’s student photographers, visit the alley and garden off Douglas Street, behind Imagination Station and the former Super 10 building.
Eyes on Main Street kicks off on Saturday with a party in downtown Wilson. At 5:30 p.m., the main party behind Imagination Station begins. It will include the band Fireside Collective, free food and drinks for purchase.
Twenty-eight of the exhibiting Eyes on Main Street photographers are expected to attend from as far away as Australia, Africa and South America, according to event founder and organizer Jerome De Perlinghi.
A variety of lectures and workshops will be offered this year on Saturday and Sunday. For a complete list, visit eyesonmainstreetwilson.com.
Eyes on Main Street is an outdoor and indoor photo festival. It features 100 large-scale photos displayed along Nash Street. There are also a number of indoor and outdoor exhibits to complement the main show.
For more details, visit eyesonmainstreetwilson.com.