i.imagine: A focus on photography and education

i.imagine Photography Center, brainchild of Shannon Eggleston, exposes kids to the art and practicality of the industry, both as hobby and career. Eggleston, who taught in K-12 classrooms prior to founding i.imagine believes that there is no right or wrong to a photograph and the same is true in the students who participate in the program. When they look through the lens there is an opportunity for a deeper story.

The public will be able to enjoy photographs taken by students throughout the month of June in an exhibition on the Purple People Bridge. Since 2020, students have shown their work along the span over the Ohio River. On May 16, at its Union, Kentucky location, i.imagine students and their families got a birds eye view of the exhibition before it is transported to the bridge.

Photo from i.imagine's 2020 exhibition..

Eggleston began the organization as a professional photographer in 2014 gaining nonprofit status in 2016.  Since then, she has created a darkroom filled with cameras, film hung by clothespins, and enlargers, one of which is a Vietnam-era machine used for mapping during the war. The center exposes kids to a world of possibility through photography. Amid several rooms that once housed a Sunday school, backdrops for studio shots and a storage room overflowing with donated cameras and equipment invite creativity.

Zoey Hoffman, a long time participant and now a twelfth grader says, "For me, being part of i.imagine is having a safe creative environment. When we take photographs, our hearts pour into them, and having people also look at our photos and say, ‘Oh wow, that's really cool,’ validates our emotions and perceptions of the world. Being in i.imagine has just let me present myself in a way that feels more comfortable and less exposing. I'm still expressing myself, but behind a camera where I feel freer."

i.imagine supports educational goals of nearby Kentucky schools with after school programs. They have recently launched a student-run slide digitization business. The kids run a snack and equipment shop on the premises, as well. Adults take classes and learn the intricacies of storytelling through a camera lens.  

Luke Rogg, a senior at Ryle High School, hasn’t much time for photography these days as he trains to become a firefighter, but he says, “What I’m taking away from i.imagine [sic] is you don’t always have to be perfect. It’s just how you view yourself and your work. And from that, you can make yourself.”

Eggleston nods her head in agreement as if Luke’s words are what add value and meaning to her work and that of the staff. i.imagine employs three teachers and two interns besides Eggleston. She has a penchant for inviting people to give of themselves, students, staff, and volunteers alike.
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Tina Neyer is a freelance writer, book coach, and local historian. She’s been in the writing and consulting field for 30 plus years. Tina is deeply engaged in historic preservation in Greater Cincinnati. Read about her restoration work on her blog https://tinaneyer.substack.com/ and connect @tinaneyer and @tinaneyer.