Above: Bison in the snow near Starkey, Oregon. Photo by J.A. with assistance from instructor Hugh Johnson.
Part of Hugh Johnson’s job as a group life coordinator at Camp Riverbend Youth Transitional Facility is to teach and demonstrate healthy habits to youth.
Earlier this year, when he tried to think of a new hobby to share, he looked to his own passion: photography.
Starting with six youth and one camera, Johnson began teaching the youth how to capture the world through images.
“I wanted to get them into healthy hobbies that can keep them busy and out of trouble when they’re back in the community,” Johnson said.
Because Riverbend is a transition facility, the youth are allowed to leave the grounds under staff supervision.
So Johnson has been taking youth on field trips to areas near their facility, which is located just outside La Grande.
The youth have photographed everything from wildlife to landscapes to people portraits to campus events.
Their ultimate goal is to put together a calendar with their best images.
T.M., one of Johnson’s newer students, said photography was important to him before he became incarcerated.
“When I was homeless, there was a camera I had, and it was one of my favorite things,” he said. “I liked taking pictures of things I wanted to remember.”
He said he enjoyed “stealing a moment,” such as a sunset or the moon behind the clouds.
“It’s like I can say to someone, ‘I wish you were there to share the moment with me, so I captured it to share with you,’” T.M. said.
D.P.’s favorite things to photograph are landscapes and the sky.
“I like how the camera can catch things the eye can’t,” he said. “It’s a way for me to release anger. It makes me think about old times and makes me realize the world is more beautiful.”