Youth Photographers Capture a Violent, Yet Hopeful Cleveland

In a community where police gunfire killed Tamir Rice, Cleveland’s Black youth need ways to expose, explore and push back against systemic racism.

One group of young people shares their experiences of Cleveland—in all its grit and its glory—through photography. They make up “Shooting Without Bullets,” a youth photography program started by law student and community organizer, Amanda King. Each young person who participates gets a free camera and lessons from King about storytelling through photos. “Photography is a form of social activism that I wanted to teach young people, that they could use this as a platform to advocate for themselves,” King said. It’s important for King that participants feel empowered to tell their own stories, especially in response to the racial inequality and police encounters they see as Cleveland residents.

“When I came to law school…within three months, Tamir was killed, and that was really a determining factor for catapulting my activism within Cleveland—the killing of Tamir, the killing of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell and the killing of Tanisha Anderson all happening so close to my first year of law school, “ King said. “You just can’t turn your eyes away from that. It shook the core of the community.” Although the group was created as a Cleveland social justice effort, national audiences will be able to get to know the youth of Shooting without Bullets. Ten members of the group are featured in a 17-minute documentary, called Underexposed.

“What’s great about Underexposed is it’s literally bringing light to, shining light on, the issues of Cleveland youth,” King said. “These are all Cleveland youth. Ninety-five percent of them live on the East side. They’re all ages 14-20.  Even though it follows ten young people, I think their aspirations and the issues that they face and their goals are very much in line with many young people within the community.”

Read more about the Shooting Without Bullets program and follow them on Facebook or Instagram to help spread the word.

Book a screening of Underexposed.

Join Shooting Without Bullets at their upcoming community event, “A Vibe in Slavic Village,” a socially conscious rap showcase and photo exhibit at 5 p.m. June 22 .

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