The In-Sight Photography Project offers students a creative voice and outlet, an opportunity to experience success, tools for self-awareness and self-worth, and encourages them to become actively engaged in their communities. In-Sight teaches photography to youth ages 11-18 throughout the southern Vermont region, regardless of their ability to pay.
In-Sight is a private non-profit, started in 1992 by photographers John Willis and Bill Ledger, who wanted to give participants a creative focus for all that potentially creative youth energy – the same energy that can become destructive if neglected. Since then, In-Sight has served more than 2000 youth, and grown from an all-volunteer organization to a registered 501(c)(3) with full-time facilities, a board of 15 directors, dozens of volunteers. We offer more than 30 programs per year, in 3 semesters, serving up to 200 students per year.
Who are In-Sight’s Students?
Most In-Sight classes are offered after school. Many participants come from Brattleboro and surrounding towns, but students travel from as far as Claremont and Keene NH, Northampton MA, Readsboro and Springfield VT. Homeschoolers too take classes at In-Sight. During our Exposures Summer Program, students from all over the country travel to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for our cross-cultural exchange program, connecting Vermont students to a broader experience. Students come from all across the socio-economic spectrum, with more girls than boys taking classes – an interesting reversal from earlier years.
“The skills that I have learned in countless hours in class and open labs have been invaluable in my life and travels.”
~ Rachael, In-Sight alumna and photographer
“My independent study at In-Sight was so cool. It was really nice to have a direction in which my energies were going, not just focusing on school, like other peoples’ outlet is sports or something, but this is different and creative.”
~ Sally, In-Sight student
What Does In-Sight Teach?
In-Sight youth learn about photography, themselves, contemporary issues, and cross-cultural themes. Class offerings include introductory film and digital photography, advanced film and digital photography, animation, multi-media projects, web design, theme classes, exploration of nature and community, open labs, and independent studies.
But participating youth are offered even more, including:
- all the equipment and supplies needed for the duration of the class for every student;
- a platform for interacting with their town, their family, and their community through assignments;
- a challenging multi-level curriculum to build on developing skills, with plenty of support for students’ success;
- our Exposures cross-cultural exchange program, using photography to connect youth from diverse cultures from around the country;
- a community of peers;
- a welcoming, student-centric place downtown;
- creative freedom, guided by knowledgeable teachers;
- mentorship and independent study programs;
- collaborations with outside organizations, including schools, youth arts organizations, social service organizations, and more.
"The class I took with In-Sight was one of the only outlets where I could freely express myself; I was able to say and represent what I wanted in the pictures I took. Now years later, I am able to teach the class. From this personal experience at both ends, I can attest to the success of the In-Sight Program."
~ James, In-Sight alumnus and former teacher
“In-Sight gives me a sense of community. At school the teacher isn’t fully focused on you because he has at least 60 other students to pay attention to. In-Sight’s more like a family.”
~ Noa, In-Sight student and Exposures alum
Who are In-Sight’s Teachers?
In-Sight’s volunteer teachers are highly skilled and dedicated community members, some professional photographers, some professional teachers, all bringing opportunities to any youth who wants to learn, regardless of their ability to pay. Some of our past students have become professional photographers, and some have returned to In-Sight as teachers. We are proud that after 22 years we have students coming full circle to teach as well as many pursuing their own photography careers, serving as mentors and role models for new students. Our program director, Zach Stephens, started his photography career fifteen years ago as a student at In-Sight. Kayla Rice, an alumna of In-Sight, took over Zach’s job at the local newspaper as photo editor when he left, and she now teaches a class and works with an intern who studies photography at In-Sight.