Check that the aperture setting is wide-open and center the frame of reference on photographs from Youth in Focus.

The photography exhibition, Youth in Focus, is set to open on March 5 and closes on March 23 in the Viking Union Gallery. The exhibit will feature work from several years of Youth in Focus exhibitions, ranging from large to smaller, more intimate photographs.

All of the photos are taken through the eyes of urban youth ranging from 13-19 years old, primarily from areas near Rainier Valley, a district within Seattle.

“The reason I felt this exhibit was important was that I feel like in society, now we don’t really pay attention, a lot of attention to children,” said Heidi Noorgard, VU Gallery Coordinator. “What I wanted to accomplish with this was to have a new perspective on the lives of kids and be able to give them a voice and be heard. It is a new perspective that we may not understand or know.”

Youth in Focus is a non-profit art organization located in Rainier Valley in Seattle. It opened in 1994, becoming an official non-profit in 1997. Serving over 1,400 since, Youth in Focus continues to gain national attention. In 2003, Youth in Focus had the fortune of relocating to a new custom designed teaching facility.

The philosophy behind the program is to provide youth, who otherwise may not have gotten the chance, the opportunity to explore photography as an art medium. Free classes, after school programs, and a freelance program for older youth are provided with the possibility of students to showcase their work in galleries at a later date.

Program Director of Youth in Focus Loti W. says that it’s an encouraging environment for students to be able to come to, express themselves, and form their own way of thinking.

This quarter, there are 56 students enrolled in the program with eight to nine students each in the different class levels. Five schools are represented for the after school program with some of the schools including Washington Middle School, McClure Middle School, and Aki Kurose Middle School.

The program consists of four classes in photography. There are also electives, like portfolio preparation that students can take offered throughout the school year. Once the advanced black and white training class is completed, students have the opportunity to apply for Youth in Focus’s freelance project, which is a job training program encouraging the enhancement of photography skills.

Though Youth in Focus is geared directly towards the age group of 13-19 year olds, many of the students have expressed interest in continuing on with their education.

One former student and current mentor is completing a photography degree at Cornish College of the Arts this quarter. In the future, Youth in Focus plans to have a better way of tracking alumni, said W.

Since the program is a non-profit organization a lot of the funding and support comes from volunteers, community involvement, or government grants. For the most part, teachers in the facility are practicing photographers in Seattle. Some of the places that have contributed in some way to Youth in Focus, according to the Youth in Focus Web site, include Glazer’s Camera, Getty Images, and the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The Youth in Focus exhibit will be the first sole photography exhibit of the year in the VU Gallery and the first time the exhibit has ever been to Western. Other galleries, museums, and spaces that have showcased the student’s work include the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, the Frye Art Museum, the Benham Gallery and the Washington State Convention Center.

“Photography has a kind of honesty about it,” said Noorgard. “Especially when they are children documenting their own lives, there is a kind of honesty with that. It’s something that is a real confrontation of life. I think that adults use their intellect to mask reality in certain ways. Kids are very intellectual in themselves. It’s a kind of intellect that comes from within with kids. I think this is something that is really evident in the student’s photography.”

For more information about Youth in Focus the web address is www.youthinfocus.org. To receive more information about the VU Gallery contact Heidi Noorgard at 360-650-6534 or on the VU Gallery Web address is http://gallery.as.wwu.edu