"Nancy Collins, Our Oasis Volunteer" by Raychell Mitchell

“Nancy Collins, Our Oasis Volunteer” is a photograph taken by Raychell Mitchell in 2008 for the PPRC Photography Project at UMSL. More than 900 photos taken for the project over eight years are now available to view online.

Since 2004, the Public Policy Research Center Photography Project at the University of Missouri–St. Louis has amassed more than 900 photographs taken by amateur shutterbugs from the St. Louis community. The photos, along with artwork, poetry, autobiographical texts and project descriptions, were displayed at UMSL and within the communities they were taken. Starting this semester, those exhibits are now available to view in another location: online.

The PPRC Photography Project’s interactive online database presents the various projects chronologically, but the database is also fully searchable using an array of criteria, including participant, group or project name. In addition, each photo has been tagged to indicate where it was taken, so the database can be searched by specifying neighborhoods or parts of towns.

“These photographs represent snapshots of life in various parts of St. Louis over the last eight years,” explained Mel Watkin, the PPRC Photography Project director. “We want visitors to be able to locate images that illustrate neighborhoods, as well as enable them to find specific project images and information. We hope the database will be useful to a broad cross section of the community including former, current and future photography project participants, community groups, historians, civic leaders, community activists, artists and, of course, photographers.”

The PPRC Photography Project online database was made possible through the generosity of the Whitaker Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council and the Regional Arts Commission.

The PPRC Photography Project is a program of the Public Policy Research Center at UMSL. Several times a year, project instructors teach participants from St. Louis community groups to take high quality photographs of their work to improve the quality of life in the Metro area. These groups address issues in four categories: community revitalization, historic preservation, youth and older adult enrichment, and social services. For each project, a selection of the group’s best photographs is exhibited in two locations for two to three months.

In 2013, the PPRC Photography Project will focus on North Grand Neighborhood Services in St. Louis, Deaf Inc. in Webster Groves, Mo., and Normandy (Mo.) High School. For the latter, the project is looking to connect current NHS students with alumni beginning in January.

“We want to be able to take their portrait and write a very brief (one paragraph) piece about their accomplishments,” Watkin said. “These will be made into banners and hung around the high school to inspire current students, faculty and parents.”

UMSL students, faculty members or staffers who are NHS alumni and interested in participating can email watkinm@umsl.edu or call 314-516-5257.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz