The Social Fabric Collective teaches teens the art and craft of photography for both personal and social transformation. Our students are inspired to connect with empathy and empowered to create a better future for themselves and their communities.
The Social Fabric Collective endeavors to empower youth through digital photography. We promote photography as an essential art form, a mode of personal expression, and an agent of change. Our twelve week photography courses that culminate in a professional gallery show are available to youth in the Wilkes-Barre Scranton area in grades 9-12.
People often think you have to travel to exotic places to take an interesting photograph. We teach our students that the opposite is true – that they can make interesting images in their own neighborhoods, their own streets, and their own homes.
Our goal is to create a collaborative group environment where students have the chance to learn and grow over time and where photography becomes part of the fabric of their daily lives - thus the name of the program, Social Fabric. We refer to it as a Collective, because we see every participant in the Collective as an essential part of the whole, from the board members, to the teaching artists, to those that enroll in the digital photography program.
Our hope is that the program allows students to grow professionally and personally – to develop their discipline and technical skills, but most importantly to develop the essential critical thinking skills that they will need as a young adult to succeed.
By Jamie Smith, Social Fabric Collective Founder
“At Social Fabric Collective we talk a lot about how the opportunity to create art can be a transformative experience for a young mind – I know that to be true from personal experience.
I grew up in Palo Alto California, arguably in one of the top ranked public school systems in the US. And yet somehow I managed to graduate from high school without reading even one book. I loved to learn and I loved new ideas, but I just didn’t enjoy school for the most part. With some perspective now I know why. I wasn’t good at it.
I was dyslexic. (Still am). Times were different then – I remember a little tutoring but little else to help me understand how I needed to learn differently.
What I did enjoy was art. I loved drawing, painting, making a mess, and observing things around me (certainly that stemmed in part from having two PhDscientists as parents).
Mr. Jang was my junior high and high school ceramics teacher. He had a hands-off teaching approach and gave me enough instruction to allow me to make my own discoveries. By high school he gave me a ton of freedom – he didn’t care if I was there when he took roll, but that was probably because I produced a ton of work compared to other people. That, and I was usually there early, stayed late, and if I had a free period I spent it there.
I was in college at UC Santa Barbara when I picked up a camera for the first time. I am what most people would call an introvert and yet I loved the extroverted nature of photography – the ability to observe and connect with the subject. I loved group collaboration projects. I loved the organic process of finding work and letting the work find me.
Photography led me to understand the most important thing I ever learned as a young adult – that when you are motivated by something you are passionate about, your world can crack wide open.
After college, I spent several years in San Diego shooting for various newspapers and in New York producing workshops for the great photographer Jay Maisel. When I relocated to Northeastern Pennsylvania, where I had spent many summers with my grandmother as a child, I realized what I really wanted to do was to provide that same creative space for others that allowed me to find my passion as a young adult.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area is a different community. It does not have the resources of Silicon Valley or New York City. There are many kids who are struggling because their options are so limited – funding for art and other enrichment programs are constantly being cut, and many lack the financial means to take advantage of the programs that do exist. I thought about what it could mean if I could bring the same high caliber of workshop classes that I produced in New York City to my local area, and bring some of the professional photographers – amazing artists all of them – to interact with the kids. What if this could give these young adults a whole new sense of what is possible in life? The impact could be huge.
These kids in our classes may or may not go on to be professional artists or photographers, which really doesn’t matter. What we are trying to do is to expand their minds by exposing them to new ideas. Ultimately in learning about photography they will be learning about themselves. I want to create a sense of community and a collaborative and open environment where the kids can learn from each other and gain insights that will help them overcome any obstacles they choose to address in life.”