Photographer and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron of New Orleans Drops #TruthBombs about Arts Education and Cancer
The Pablove Foundation is a national pediatric cancer foundation based in Los Angeles, CA. Since 2010, the organization has chosen art and science as a way to solve childhood cancer. I had the opportunity to interview Cameron Washington, a 16-year-old student from New Orleans, LA to find out more about why arts education matters.
How did you get into photography? What made you interested?
Photography came when I was going through a hard time in my life with cancer. When I started it, it brought me into a different world and into seeing different things with a deeper meaning. It helped me learn how to tell a story and say things without using words. It helped me see where I was in the world. I enjoy the entire process and the people who have taught me everything.
How did you find out about Pablove Shutterbugs?
One day I was coming home from school and my mom called me. She told me there was a class going on at Isabella Newman that my social worker suggested. I missed the first class but the teacher was surprised with how much I knew and I fit right in. I had never taken photography before but I knew how to use my iPhone. I’ve excelled so much from the first class to now. It was a really good experience.
Why is art important to you?
I feel like art is really important because you can express a side of yourself that you normally wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with strangers. You can even be anonymous with it if you want. I enjoy seeing how other artists use it. One of my favorite rappers, Kendrick Lamar, visualizes his songs into actual music videos and recreated Gordon Parks photographs to represent the different things going on in his community. It was so cool to see how it all came together. I think art is a really beautiful thing and it’s underrated for some people!
What have you learned from your arts education with Shutterbugs? Any life lessons?
One lesson I did learn from Shutterbugs and art is that no matter what anyone says—be yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be able to express who you really are and what you’re capable of doing. Before learning photography through Shutterbugs, I didn’t really know that lesson. But once I saw how people express themselves and everyone was able to fit in, even from different backgrounds, it was really cool! Now that I know that, I am able to do more and gain more opportunities by just being myself.
You have taken multiple Shutterbugs classes and attended a couple of our Summer Camps. What keeps you coming back, and what has inspired you to continue learning about photography?
The people! There’s probably no better people in the world than the people at Pablove. From day one, they make you feel like you’re a part of their family. It is hard to explain all of the feelings and emotions that I have when I talk about Shutterbugs, but you all bring so much joy to me and other kids in the program.
How do you think photography impacts the childhood cancer community?
Some people out there think that kids with cancer are usually sad, lonely, and empty inside. Photography expresses who we really are. Not all cancer kids are sad. Many of us are happy and full of joy. We all have the “never give up” mentality that starts when we’re first diagnosed. Taking pictures of ourselves and our lives shows us having fun, going through chemo, the day to day struggles, but there’s always a glimpse of joy. All cancer kids are just like any other regular kid. Just because we have a life-altering disease doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. This is what we get to say in our photos.
What would you like to see for the future of arts education?
I think art and photography needs to be put in different areas—especially kept in schools—some kids may think art is boring and just do it to gain credit, but if kids learn to actually enjoy art and photography, they may see another side of themselves that they didn’t know they had. If they did that—it may even change the world because it would make people feel better inside about who they really are.
How can the arts positively impact your community, our country, or the world?
Within New Orleans specifically—I feel like art can tell a powerful story that people don’t know about. People don’t understand the daily struggle that people in New Orleans go through. Especially those that grow up in poorer neighborhoods—how they go about making a living or the fact that some kids don’t have much because their parents are struggling. I think with photography, people in this community would be able to share their struggles with the world and learn new ways to help the community. I also believe there’s a lot of joy in New Orleans—you can’t take the fun out of New Orleans! It is really hard to do that because there are always so many things going on in the city. Everyone here is so kind and loving. Talking to people about what they are going through is really humbling. Even through struggle, people here always have a smile on their face.