SEEDS of Change


Melissa Wiesner
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2008

"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." - Henry David Thoreau

‘SEEDS of Change’ is a piece about the importance of building community through reconnecting with our most natural shared link: nurture. This piece highlights the need to invest in our neighborhoods, work with the changing demographic in Durham, empower our youth, and look for the potential in everything. Neighborhoods are where we spend most of our lives, were we grow up, where we grow old. At the same time, food is what keeps our bodies alive. These two crucial aspects of life come together in this project, as we explore the intersection between neighborhood revitalization and personal health and growth.

SEEDS Community Garden has been an oasis nestled between residential and industrial neighborhoods in Northeast Central Durham since 1994. Today its programs have diversified and its effect in the community is spreading. I photographed three of SEEDS’s programs: Community Gardening, Youth Gardening (DIG), and SEEDlings. Together these programs educate, unite, and serve beyond themselves.

The broken windows theory says that how a neighborhood looks has a strong impact on whether crime is likely to occur there. In other words, making our inner city neighborhoods look better with improved street lighting, sidewalks and streets in good condition and other needed infrastructure improvements can possibly help to reduce crime. This set includes one striking shot of a broken window in the neighborhood, but SEEDS is the hope right around the corner. SEEDS stands as a dramatic contrast to its surroundings, with its vines and bright art, literally reaching out.

My project took me through the lifecycle of a seed. The seed is planted with love in the garden at SEEDS. It is tended to, harvested, and taken to the Farmer’s Market. Here the student employees sell their harvest. Then the cycle continued in the cooking of the foods, with the SEEDling program. And lastly, nothing goes to waste, as composting steps in to recycle that which is left over. Here we see Bo, a high school volunteer sifting through the soil. From here, the cycle recommences, and the beauty of nature, together with the love of the community, continues to grant us with its fruits.

The interaction I enjoyed the most was that with the DIG students, Destiney Robinson and Anthony Green. I was able to see them work in two settings, at the SEEDS office and running the sales booth at the Farmer’s Market. Just to see the positive influence SEEDS had in their lifetime alone was very inspiring.

In terms of photography, throughout nine different visits to the neighborhood, the office, the gardens, and the Farmer’s market, I was able to gather around 700 shots. I took new risks, by experimenting with macro lenses and using lighting I hadn’t played with before. The idea of composing this work with audio was a very fulfilling experience. I recommend all photographers to try it one day!

I am deeply thankful for the welcoming environment that I was met with throughout my project with SEEDS. A special thank you to Thad, Bekah, Destiney, Anthony, my classmates, and especially to Susie!