Colombo, Sri Lanka 2006
Breaking through the fourth wall, Opening Act works with New York City’s most under-served public schools by providing students with the opportunity to gain confidence, pride, and the knowledge that they can succeed at anything in life.
In 2013 David Katzenstein received an invitation to create a portfolio of fine art photographs to help enhance awareness in support of Opening Acts’ development goals. 2018 was a banner year for the organization. Photographing the performers, writers, and host of contributing artists for last years’ gala presentation of Hear Me Here directed by Kenny Leon, formalized the students’ experience through fine art photography. Transformative and inspiring, this project continues to enhance Opening Act’s efforts in ways we never dreamed possible. We are thrilled to participate with this organization on an ongoing basis.
Please join us in honoring the incredible students, artists, and supporters of Opening Act as we celebrate their 19th year of success at their Annual Gala on April 2, 2019, at New World Stages in New York City.
In light of recent events Turkey has been on my mind quite a bit these days. This scene from a rural elementary school in the central part of the country, between Ankara and Konya, is timeless. It shields the viewer from the current mayhem that has erupted outside the window.
50/50: Argentina, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Oman, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey
Documenting social responsibility projects has been an important part of my assignment work over the years. These students in blue-checkered smocks were partaking in a special after school science program in Santiago, Chile created just for young women. After spending the session with them I asked them to line up for a group portrait, and after a series of serous poses I told them in my passable Spanish that I had a special friend who wanted to be in the photograph with them. When I rolled over the skeleton that was lurking in the corner of the classroom and placed his arms around the girls in the front row, the group exploded in spontaneous laughter and I got my shot.
50/50: Argentina, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile
Jane Addams Vocational High School, according to recent statistics, has a student body of 1,279 members, of which 97.9% are minorities; 81% to 90% are from households that receive public assistance; and only 52% graduate. A decade ago, the school was awarded a small grant that allowed it to stage “Grease,” its first musical and one that was relevant to the teenagers involved. The director asked David Katzenstein to document the production, and 23 of his color portraits of cast members are on display, as well as 11 portraits he took when the cast was reassembled in 2012. The before and after pictures are the most interesting, revealing the changes made by time.
Happily, from what one can tell looking at their pictures, the cast members who returned are doing well. Raymond seems more relaxed, cheerier. Samuel matured considerably. Channon is wearing the same gold cross, but her outfit is more sophisticated. Ibrahim now has tattoos on his forearms, Michael took off his do-rag and Tanisha took off her glasses, although she has the same sweet smile before and after. One wonders about those who did not return.
—Mr. Meyers writes on photography for the Journal. See his work at williammeyersphotography.com.
Bronx Portraits Exhibitions in New York Times article about Bronx Museum
The museum’s collection includes works by Vito Acconci, and by Ero (Dominique Philbert), a graffiti artist from the Bronx. A current photography show pairs David Katzenstein’s portraits of students from a Bronx high school, striking a pose in 2003, and then the same people in the same pose nine years later. Also on display are Mr. Katzenstein’s photographs of Valerie Capers, a jazz musician and educator from the neighborhood.