Lydia's Place +

Lydia's Place

During the spring semesters of 2008 and 2009, my class worked with Lydia's Place. Lydia's Place is a social service agency in Pittsburgh that helps women and their children with the lives during or after the mother's incarceration. Our class explored how photography could be used to help the women with their lives, how photography could tell their stories, and how photography could create a bond between two different groups of people — women offenders and Carnegie Mellon students. [View a PDF about the project.]

Who we are now, Stories of Incarcerated Women and Families Starting Over +

Who we are now

We are a class of 15 students and an instructor. We are photographers, designers, writers, humanists, artists, and thereís even a scientist and a graduate engineer among us. We met as a class once a week. We also traveled outside our campus to meet our women and children. Some of us worked with families at Sojourner House MOMS; some of us worked with women at the Allegheny County Jail.

Sojourner House and the Allegheny County Jail are not more than five miles from Carnegie Mellon University, our home. Yet, had we not taken a course such as this, we might never have learned from people who are often overlooked and are not seen by mainstream society. For many, the women we worked with are only known through crime and drug statistics. Our women are addicts but are now living clean and sober. Some have committee crimes so severe that they are incarcerated. Our women and children face obstacles in their lives daily. They donít take a roof over their head for granted.

We learned a lot from this experience. We learned about family, privilege, grief, happiness, loss, and determination to beat bad odds. We also learned how easy it is to bond with people, even when enormous differences exist, if people are open to each other. We believe that our cameras helped create trust between us. And we know for sure that our cameras helped us have fun and created great memories. [View a PDF about the project.]