Light and Camera: The Principles in Action

Light and Camera: The Principles in Action

With the Community Church of New York's All-8 Workshop, young people are exploring the Principles in ways that touch both their creativity and their identities.

Elaine McArdle
The silhouette of two young children in front of a purple-hued window.

"A lot of the time, I take pictures just to take them, and then, later on, find a hidden meaning or message within them," says Milan, 15, of New Jersey.

© Community Church of New York

ALL8 is a ten-week teen photography workshop that started online in the spring of 2021 at the Community Church of New York, with eight teens from five different states. The workshop introduces youth ages 14–17 to a new way of approaching and processing the Unitarian Universalist Principles, including the explicitly antiracist Eighth Principle, which many congregations have adopted.

Each week, participants use one of the principles as their “lens” as they shoot photos throughout the week. The group then collectively explores each individual’s interpretations.

At the end of the tenth week, the teens create an exhibition film of the work and host an online photography exhibition that includes the artists speaking about their work. Participants develop creative community, strengthen understanding of Unitarian Universalism, share technical tips and tricks, develop their compositional eye, and begin thinking about what it means to frame things visually to convey a much deeper message or concept.

The workshop has now run three times at Community Church, with a total of twenty-six teens involved, and many returning to take it a second time. In the spring and fall of 2021, the teens’ work was presented in youth justice art exhibitions online at Gallery35NYC, a fine art collective founded through Community Church of New York.

A presentation about the ALL8 workshop was also made at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual General Assembly in 2022 by Jil Novenski, director of religious education for children and youth at the Community Church of New York. Novenski has adapted the online workshop for in-person learning and written a new version of the curriculum that includes creation stations for fine art, creative writing, digital art, sculpting, and animation for both middle and high school grades.

Listen to audio:

Logan describes what the Principles mean to him.

The new ALL8 Youth Arts Workshop was piloted at UUMAC Summer Camp (Unitarian Universalist Mid-Atlantic Community)and is currently running at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County in Reading, Pennsylvania, as the congregation’s year-long youth program. Several other congregations are planning to use the curriculum in their 2023–24 church year, and plans for an adult version of the workshop are underway.