We Hear You SF! Amazing W.H.Y. Project Gallery Event at Hipstamatic Shows the Power of Student Voices

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LLA student artists host hundreds at multimedia exhibit showcasing their mobile photography 


By Justin Warren


An enthusiastic crowd mingled with LLA student artists as they exhibited their W.H.Y. Project photographic stories at the #WeHearYouSF event in San Francisco.

The happy hour event drew several hundred guests to Haus of Hipstamatic, the mobile camera app company’s headquarters, to view the photographic prints (shown above), watch a video of students explaining their stories, and even donate to take home a visual souvenir created during the project.


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Prompted with the thought, “If you could tell the world anything, what would you say…” five students ranging in age from 15 to 18 took to the streets of their neighborhoods with an iPod touch to tell stories of personal significance. The photographs were created from October to December, 2013.

“We were blown away by the topics the students decided to cover. The stories are very personal,” said Luanne Dietz, the Director of the W.H.Y. Project, a non-profit organization that uses digital media to amplify passionate student voices.

“These students expressed and captured emotions in themselves that some adults have never let themselves feel before.”

As the stories progressed, students were paired with local photojournalism professionals who served as guest editors and mentors through the project.

“I was touched not only by the quality of the students’ work but also by the insight photography seemed to give them into their own lives,” said freelance photojournalist Sam Wolson.

Members of many SF communities — photojournalists, tech workers, creatives, educators, art lovers, philanthropists — mingled amidst the images, some of which were suspended from the rafters such that they seemed to float in the gallery with the guests. The photographs reached beyond the gallery’s walls by earning a lead feature story in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bay Area section, and online coverage by The Wall Street JournalThe WeekThe New Asterisk, and Wired Magazine, Italy. In addition, two of the prints were gifted to attendees in a raffle that evening.

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As the project’s underwriting partner, Hipstamatic provided the resources needed to create and showcase the work, including a class set of iPods, unlimited use of the Oggl mobile camera app, use of their image printing facility, and the transformation of their office’s three floors into a multimedia gallery.

The photographs will soon be on display at Life Learning Academy. LLA is working with the W.H.Y. Project to facilitate sales of reprints due to the strong interest expressed by many of the event attendees. To inquire about print sales, visit our Contact page. To support projects like these, donate to LLA. Follow Life Learning Academy at @LLASF and The W.H.Y. Project at @wehearyouworld for the latest student media projects.