Wheaton Street is spotlighted in Wheaton: The Street; The People, an exhibit of photographic images created by Robert Cooper. The works will be on display at the Cultural Arts Gallery from March 6 through 27.
Wheaton Street connects downtown with east Savannah. Thousands drive this road daily but how many actually stop? For the past two years, Savannah native Robert Cooper has been photographing the businesses, their owners and clientele as a sort of introduction to the passersby who otherwise might never know that they were there.
These images tell a story of individuals making a living and making a difference in their community along a street that could only be accurately described as blighted, but in that, not charmless.
“I feel like you never really know a place until you get your boots on the ground,” says Cooper. “Wheaton Street was a natural subject for me not only for its history, but also for its familiarity – a passing motorist. As a pedestrian, I now have a greater appreciation about what makes Wheaton Street a vital but underappreciated part of our community.”
Taking it one step further, Cooper shared his documentary techniques in a photography workshop with students from Hubert Middle School’s 21st Century program. These teens, ages 11-14, participated in four sessions with Cooper. Using single use film cameras they learned basic techniques such as composition and portraiture. The workshop culminated with a supervised photographic field trip to Wheaton Street. Works created during this workshop will be on display along with Cooper’s work.
“I could visualize the benefits in an abstract way, but seeing the kids engaged in something that I feel passionate about brought it full circle,” Cooper explained. “This project has reaffirmed to me how important it is to expose and keep exposing our youth to the arts in as many ways and on as many levels as possible.”
Cooper holds a BA from Georgia Southern University and currently operates a full-service photography business in Savannah and Hilton Head. He has received numerous photographic awards and has worked with HBO, People Magazine, the New York Times and others.
The Wheaton: The Street; The People opening reception will take place Friday, March 6 from 6-9pm in conjunction with Art March. The Cultural Arts Gallery is located at 9 West Henry St. Gallery hours are from 9 am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Free off street parking is available. For more information, visit www.savannahga. gov/arts All events are free and open to the public.