Documentary explores photos' impact on rural students


By Kentucky Today

WHITESBURG, Ky. (AP) — In the 1970s, a teacher in rural Letcher County, Kentucky, gave her students a camera to take home and photograph their lives. Many were living in poverty with no cameras in their households. The photos they took were simple, but also deeply meaningful for them.

Now there is a documentary about the project showing on public television, "POV: Portraits and Dreams," and a book about the photos is being republished, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Former Campbell's Branch Elementary student Gary Crase grew up "poorer than a church mouse," he said. His home did not have running water until he was 22 years old.

"This was a huge thing for someone to say 'here is your camera and here is your film,' " Crase said. "Because we were poor."

Teacher Wendy Ewald's photography project brought with it a realization that life existed outside of the small town where they lived, Crase said. "I hope they realize this was an opening of the world to the students."

Delilah Sue Brashear said photographing their lives gave her a sense of pride — something Brashear later tried to convey to others as a teacher and principal.

Brashear sobbed "all the way through" the documentary when she watched it, she said, because she didn't know what her former classmates were going through.

She hopes viewers see more than "just poor hillbilly children" but also feel the love, she said.