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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA photographer gets ‘National’ attention

    Dust Dance
    Dust Dance

    Imagine what it would be like to experience something so extraordinary that it is deemed National Geographic-worthy. Last week, UA staff member Jamara Sky Knight’s work joined the ranks of the magazine’s incredible stories.

    Knight is an instructional specialist at the UA’s Child Language Center, Wings on Words. She works with toddlers as a teacher of speech and language. But her interest in helping children does not end there. In 2008, Knight received a grant to work at an orphanage in Tanzania.

    Knight went to Tanzania for three months to pursue a photography project with the children there. In addition to volunteering at the orphanage, she brought 35 millimeter cameras for them and taught a weekly photography class. “”It was kind of like (teaching) a literacy photography course. … By getting the kids to think about what they’re going to take pictures of beforehand, you’re also able to incorporate writing and drawing. It’s not just an art class,”” Knight said.

    For Knight, the experience was about teaching the kids a new skill, and giving them an opportunity that they wouldn’t normally have. “”Most of the kids didn’t even have pictures of themselves,”” Knight said. “”So you can only imagine what it was like when they were given a camera for the first time, and they were able to take pictures.””

    Knight also took phenomenal photographs of her own. Many of her artistic, colorful pictures depict the fascinating lives of Tanzanian people. Among them was “”Dust Dance,”” the photo she would ultimately submit to National Geographic Magazine’s “”Exceptional Experiences”” photo contest. The photograph of Tanzanian children kicking their feet up in the dust was made possible by noisy neighbors.

    “”For several weeks (in Tanzania), we could hear loud music playing,”” Knight said. “”It was our neighbors, doing this amazing dance. So we invited them to the orphanage to teach the kids. In the picture, there are some kids from the orphanage in it, as well as the kids who were teaching them. … (The neighbors) had a loud generator, they had someone on the keyboards, and they even had singers with microphones. So it was like a little concert for all the kids. It was a lot of fun.””

    After returning to the U.S., her photos were exhibited in Durham, N.C., as well as the at the UA Kachina Lounge.

    Three years after her adventure, Knight read about the “”Exceptional Experiences”” photo contest in National Geographic. She thought that “”Dust Dance”” captured an exceptional moment, so she sent it in. “”I submitted it just feeling accomplished in my own personal goals … I couldn’t imagine it would get that far,”” Knight laughed.

    The contest winners were announced last week, and although Knight did not receive the grand prize, she said it was an honor to be recognized by the magazine. The experience was uplifting, and she plans to continue taking photos and helping kids.

    “”I’m constantly applying to artist grants,”” Knight said. “”I’d even love to do something here in Tucson. I’m interested in projects related to the border, and to women, and to youth.””

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