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Streetwise Vision

May 19, 1991

The idea seems so simple, the results so complex.

In the early 1980s, a photojournalist is assigned to document the homeless problem in Washington, D.C. Jim Hubbard, then of United Press International, decides the best way to see life in the shelters is to hand over the camera to homeless youngsters.

The focus of their labors is featured Monday night on PBS' "Shooting Back: Photography by Homeless Children."

Hubbard and other photojournalists he recruited worked with 600 children living in a Washington shelter. In addition to helping the children, Hubbard said, "It was another approach to educating the public about homelessness and how it affects children through the eyes of children. It was another way of documenting reality."

The children were given free reign and the quality of their efforts--some of which are seen on these pages--raised eyebrows.

"I was really surprised by their view and the angles they shot--low and crooked," Hubbard said. "They were pretty interesting and a refreshing look at homelessness. A lot of the pictures were just about everyday life, both happy and sad."

More than 160 of the photos have been exhibited to great success in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The exhibition opened earlier this month at the Denver Children's Museum and will travel around the country for the next three years (no Los Angeles stops scheduled yet).

A few years after leaving UPI in 1986, Hubbard created the Shooting Back Education and Media Center.

"We are working with Latin American kids who are older, 16 and 17," he said. "We are working with children from 6 to 15 at a shelter in Alexandria, Va., and we are working with kids once a week who have been with us for a long time."

At least two of Hubbard's proteges want to become professional photographers.

"We were able to raise some money for a scholarship for one kid who started college last year," he said. "He was going to study sports medicine and he changed his major to photography. We have another young boy who wants to be a photographer and he is 13. He is actually off starting his own business, selling photographs in his neighborhood."

"Shooting Back: Photography by Homeless Children" airs Monday at 11:30 p.m. on KCET and at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS.

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