Culture Through Digital Storytelling: AICHO and In Progress

On Day 2, the kids were sent on a scavenger hunt that encouraged them utilize different camera techniques.

On Day 2, the kids were sent on a scavenger hunt that encouraged them utilize different camera techniques.


Kids were broken up into teams; they learned not only how to use the cameras, but how to teach others as well.

The kids were broken up into teams; they learned not only how to use the cameras, but how to teach each other.

Those who visited Brighton Beach last Thursday might have spotted the group of the kids playing in the waves of Lake Superior. They may have also noticed some touting high-end DSLR cameras and bright colored notebooks, wandering the shoreline with eager faces. That’s because, last week, the American Indian Community Housing Organization partnered with a St. Paul-based nonprofit, In Progress, to host culturally specific photography and storytelling workshops for Native American youth.

Lesson facilitator Kristine Sorenson made the journey up from the cities to the Gimaajii location to teach kids ages 8-12 how to use professional camera equipment (ranging in price from $800 to $6,000 per camera) and document the beauty in their lives. The results of their adventures couldn’t have been more inspiring.

A good number of photos featured here were taken by both myself and the participating youth and volunteers; however, at first glance, I’m willing to bet that no one would be able to distinguish who took which of the images here!


The In Progress photo sessions were a sweet blend of tradition and innovation, bringing to light cultural values through a very modern medium of expression. During one workshop, participants went on a mission to photograph what they thought represented the Seven Grandfather Teachings, a standard of morals by which Anishinaabe people live their lives. Each day, they were also asked to write about the values, people and experiences that inspired them.


A young girl’s self-portrait inspired by the Aurora Borealis.

All of the youth came up with creative ways to represent the teachings and then were taught the basics of Adobe Photoshop in order to take their post-production to the next level. In one instance, two younger sisters wanted to to photograph their pregnant older sister as a representation of “Love” — within 24 hours of the shoot, their sister was on her way to the hospital to give birth to a healthy new baby! They Photoshopped the moon behind her, as well as the AICHO logo. These would be photos their family would never forget.

The kids had so much fun last week, and hopefully their work will be on display at the AICHO Galleries in the coming months (no date is set in stone yet!). We’re very fortunate to live in Duluth where inspiration lurks around every corner and the splendor Gichigami ignites the inner photographer in us all. It’s cliche, but true — a picture is worth a thousand words! Take a look at some of the images from the photo sessions and keep your eyes peeled for updates on where you can see the final results of the kids’ work.


Vision Duluth graciously let the kids exercise their skills as paparazzi, allowing them to come in and take candid photos during one of their meetings.




One of my personal favorites! This candid photo was shot by an 11 year-old girl, I was absolutely mesmerized when I saw how it turned out!

About In Progress: 

In Progress’s mission is to diversify cultural dialogue and pave the way for new voices in the field of digital art making. They provide opportunities for newly developing artists to develop their skills as digital storytellers and leaders through the use of photography, video, music and other forms of digital media. This small, St. Paul-based non-profit has been promoting the voices of new and emerging artists since its inception in 1996.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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