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December 1, 1998

The Merging of Cultures


When two high schools in South Mobile County merged into one new school, Alma Bryant, artists Sheila Hagler and Peggy Denniston began writing and photographing the Merging of Cultures. With support from the Mobile Arts Council and Citizens for a Better Grand Bay, they are guiding a small group of students through the process of producing an exhibition of words and pictures from the students' point of view. The project entails photographing with manual cameras, film developing, print making, writing and preparing the display for the media and exhibition at the school.

Two of the students from the Merging of Cultures project told stories about their families. Elizabeth Peyregne's piece has elements of family folklore. She wrote a story about how her father got his job, a tale from oral tradition in which she, as an unborn child, figures as a leading character. Louise Moseley's family tragedy piece recounts a recent event in which two members of her family were gunned down in a drive-by-shooting. Not long after the students began writing and photographing, Louise missed a couple of days of class. When she returned she began writing about what had occurred on the long stretch of dirt road she shares with her extended family.

The class took a field trip to Sidney's and the drive-by-shooting site to make pictures with their 120mm Russian-made cameras. At Sidney's everyone got out of the cars and started discussing f-stops and shutter speeds as they roamed in and out of the fast-food store capturing images.

When the class went to Louise's dirt road, a couple of the students remained in the car. Sage, a conscientious student, followed her inclinations. She pushed back her three-foot hair and carefully approached the cross, near where Kenny was killed. Wanting to know the exact spot, she turned to Louise and asked, "Where was Kenny's body, Louise?" She and Elizabeth carefully documented Louise's story.

The students were encouraged to be brutal as they edited each other's writings. The writers were urged to argue for their choice of words, which they did. Now they are working in the darkroom, preparing the final prints for exhibition. After the silver gelatin prints are archivally toned, they will mat and frame them for display in the main hall of their new school. Some of their writings will be exhibited with the chosen images. The work will also be available for viewing on a web site at

Note from the teachers: All production and distribution of the 120mm Russian cameras has been interrupted by a buy-out. Suddenly popular, these plastic twin lens cameras are no longer available at any price, much less the $40 we paid for them. Donations of old clunker cameras would be most helpful. No automatic anything. 35mm or 120mm. These kids are reading light and manipulating black & white film development. If you have an old camera for donation, please e-mail or call 334-865-4003, and we will arrange for pick-up. Thank you.

The Harbinger, P.O. Box U-980, Mobile, AL 36688-0001