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The Camera Lady

Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2008.

Leah and Allie

One of my favorite parts of working as a facilitator is learning about what other people do for a living. Janitors and teachers, lawyers and railway workers, preachers, salesmen, farmers, I have listened to the tales of just about every profession it seems, but I have never encountered quite the enthusiasm and passion that Leah Gardner, Volunteer & Education Coordinator for the O.Winston Link Museum expressed for her job. Leah and her co-worker and friend, Allison Hasson dropped by the booth recently to talk about their work within the community.

“Why do you do what you do?” asked Allison.

“I get that question often,” said Leah. “I grew up in New Jersey and when I was in elementary school we had one classroom mother who would come in once a month and teach us about art history. Once we were learning about the Sistine Chapel, looking at slides and pictures of the Sistine Chapel, and then we taped paper to the bottom of our desks, laid down and did little drawings on the bottom of our desks. That sticks in my memory and it made me love the Sistine Chapel. And it made a connection for me between art history and the making of art,” said Leah

A little over two years ago Leah started a pilot photography program with at-risk youth at the West End Center in Roanoke. “To me photography is really every person’s art form,” explains Leah. The premise was simple, “What would to happen if you put a digital camera in the hands of a 5-year-old or a teenager?” What happened was a success…

Photo by Anthony Jackson from West End Center for Youth in Roanoke, Summer 2007
Courtesy of the O. Winston Link Museum. Roanoke, VA.
Photo from the West End Center for Youth (Summer 2007)

The project has expanded to include all age groups from kindergarten to adult students. Leah has even had her students experiment with “antiquated” film cameras.

Addison Community Learning Center at Lucy Addison Middle School in Roanoke, Fall 2007
Courtesy of the O. Winston Link Museum. Roanoke, VA.
Black and White Holga Image (cropped from a contact sheet) from Addison Community Learning Center at Lucy Addison Middle School (Fall 2007)

Shutterbug Camp with the Science Museum of Western Va, Summer 2008
Courtesy of the O. Winston Link Museum. Roanoke, VA.
Digital image from Shutterbug Camp with the Science Museum of Western Virginia (Summer 2008)

“My favorite part is getting to know these kids and seeing what they think is important to take pictures of… I want to know that I’ve made a difference. I don’t expect that my students remember my name, but I do know that they remember me. Going back and seeing students that I’ve had before, or running into them downtown, they all gather round and say, “It’s the camera lady!”

Thanks Leah and Allie for coming and sharing your enthusiasm. For more information about arts education programming at the O. Winston Link Museum go to

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2 Responses to “The Camera Lady”

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • I love the Sistine Chapel story. What a fun idea.

    Comment from Whitney on October 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Looks like a really great museum. I like the photos, thanks for sharing this story.

    Comment from Chaela on October 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm - Reply to this Comment

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