Four years ago, artist Judy Gelles’ “4th Grade” project was born. She was a volunteer at an inner-city school in Philadelphia and while helping the children with their reading, she recognized that the stories they read had nothing to do with their lives. She began asking the kids to tell their stories.
“I found that their stories were just kind of amazing,” she says. “They captured everything that was happening in our society. And I really felt that these stories should be told.”
Two years later, Gelles did the same thing at a private school and saw “how different it was" for those kids. That’s when she began creating word portraits—combining a photograph with the answers to three questions. Who do you live with? What do you wish for? What do you worry about?
In 4th grade, notes Gelles, "they are not afraid to tell you the way it is.”
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