Telling students’ stories with photographs


ESL presents their photography exhibit “TORN: A Photography Exhibit by Teens Between Two Worlds” at Gallery 200 on Fridays and Saturdays through June.

By Leslie Najera-Rivas, Editor in Chief

Using pictures from over 17 ESL students, student lives as immigrants are on display at Gallery 200’s exhibit, “TORN: A Photography Exhibit by Teens Between Two Worlds.”

“My students have taken photographs that symbolize their lives between two cultures and two countries. They have also written short descriptions about their lives between these two worlds,” ESL teacher Mark Poulterer said. 

All students chose between one or two photographs each to describe themselves. 

“The inception of this project came from one of the most challenging classes I have ever had the privilege to teach. I had students from 10 different countries, speaking five different first languages,” Poulterer said. “The cultures and personalities clashing made teaching extremely difficult. I looked for a way to teach English, celebrate the students’ diversity, remain sane, and allow them to release their energy.”

Photographs were originally going to be displayed at the Wyndemere Senior Living Center and Gallery 200. 

“It evolved and the second year, after obtaining a couple of grants, I was able to buy cameras, frames and develop photographs. The idea was to display the pictures, (but) due to the pandemic, those plans were canceled and we adapted changing our show to a virtual exhibit,” Poulterer said. (Virtual Exhibit (Images of Lost and Found)

Pictures at the exhibit are from students last year and this year. 

“This is the third year we have done a photography project to express the cultural background of the students, but this is the first year the photographs have been on display,” Poulterer said. 

The exhibit is held at Gallery 200 Fridays and Saturdays until the end of June. 

“The exhibit is open to everyone and it is free of charge. However, due to COVID-19, the gallery hours are limited and the maximum capacity is 10 people at a time,” Poulterer said. “It will also be displayed on June 15 at the board (of education) meeting in commons.” 

Poulterer hopes people take the opportunity to view the exhibit. 

“My students are resilient. More than anything I think I want people to see that. Some of them have dealt with huge losses as they have immigrated to the United States. But they continue to move forward,” Poulterer said. “There are things that they face that I know nothing about, but this exhibit has been eye-opening for me as well.”

Gallery 200 is at 103 W. Washington St., West Chicago.