In a collaboration with MoMA, our seniors learn about the art of photography

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is the largest and most influential museum of modern art in the world. As part of a creative aging initiative, our seniors got to engage with the art of photography in the MoMA.  The program featured a guided tour of exhibits, and two photography classes at our center conducted by Jano Cortijo, an artist-educator from the museum.

“Looking” at photos at MoMA:

Jano Cortijo, an artist educator from the MoMA asks our what they notice in Samuel Fasso’s self-portraits

Our seniors study Robert Rauschenberg’s photographs at the MoMA

Henri Carter-Bresson, considered one of the world’s greatest photographers, said, “In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject.” Our seniors were encouraged to look for the smallest thing in a photo and asked to wonder why it had been included and what effect it had on the photograph. We looked at light falling through a sheet, the lines on a tower, various graphic shapes in Robert Rauschenberg’s work — with Cortijo asking guiding questions that made our seniors understand the many choices that go into making a photograph. We talked about Samuel Fasso’s self-portraits which have him taking on roles of his heroes like Nelson Mandela and Angela Davis, and his attempt to take on a larger political and activist role as an artist.

Seniors workshop their own photographs

Photography class, homework and all: 

Taking photos outdoors and in the street

A lesson about backgrounds

After looking at photos by famous artists, our seniors got a lesson in taking better photographs using a smartphone. They learned about backgrounds, about lighting, angles, position of the photographer, focus on the subject and rudimentary editing. They also learned about the difference in portrait photography versus landscapes, tricks to modulate the brightness in iPhones and so on.

Cortijo, the artist-educator, also assigned our seniors “homework.” They were asked to take photos at home using their new found skills. When their homework assignments were displayed on the TV,  the class enthusiastically critiqued the results – generously pointing out what worked in the photos  as well as the flaws.

Our seniors listened avidly and responded with enthusiasm to this foray into photography as art. While it is true that modern technology has made taking a photograph easy, it was fascinating for seniors to see it as an art form, one that required more than just a point and click. We could see that the lessons had made a difference–many of the photos taken after the class showed that they were paying attention and practicing their skills!

Our seniors loved the tight focus on the little boy, the symmetry of the trees, the repetition  of ochre color in this photograph. (c) Jayesh Patel.

Representing South Asian seniors at the famous Museum of Modern Art

primetime

MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, is not only one of the world’s largest museums for modern art, it is also the most influential museum of modern art on the planet.

Now the museum is bringing its power and prestige to a program that will get more older adults to visit the museum, take its classes and learn about art. Called Prime Time, the initiative plans to engage older adults with opportunities to experience art in new ways and is part of a broader attempt to redefine aging.

IMG_0525India Home was part of Prime Time Exchange, a conference that brought together 20+ museums and cultural institutions, 20+ multi-services agencies and aging services organizations, city agencies, community-based arts organizations and teaching artists. India Home’s Lakshman Kalasapudi and Meera Venugopal were on two separate panels with Evelyn Laureano of Neighborhood SHOPP that serves 5000 seniors in the Bronx and Christian Gonzalez-Rivera of Center for an Urban Future, who, among other things, is the author of an important and timely study of immigrants and aging in NYC.

IMG_0524It was an opportunity to make great connections with other museums and art organizations and we hope to see teaching artists from MOMA come out to meet with our older adults. We were happy to share our experience of serving South Asian immigrant seniors with the audience at the Exchange. We hope that more arts institutions in NYC will think about the unique needs and perspectives of immigrant seniors and invite them to contribute to this conversation about art, creativity and aging.