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Another Piece of the Vision

Chris Aluka Berry (@alukastories)

Architect James Hanis gave yet another assignment in late 2019. "Mary Jo, I want you to find a high caliber, professional photographer who is willing to come to the school campus and shoot with the goal of finding the cover story photograph that will eventually be the one student picture that represents our Blu Sky initiative, a shot worthy the cover of the Times."

Many months later after no success with this photography assignment, I mentioned the need to longtime friend and supporter, Pamela Carmen. Without hesitation, Pam answered,. "I know just the person. Chris Aluka Berry. I had learned years back to never underestimate Pam's connections.

Backed by Pam's reference, the PROJECT BLU SKY initiative combined with the story of The Learning Center Charter School captured the attention of Atlanta based documentary photographer Chris Aluka-Berry. He visited the school on March 29, 2020, with the intent of capturing the life of our school, and, of course, the picture that will represent the project.

Aluka-Berry is a storytelling photographer who grew up in a biracial family in a small rural South Carolina town. For the past five years he has documented life in southern Appalachia in an effort to bring awareness to “Affrilachia” – a term that refers to people of African American heritage who are native to, or live in, the Appalachian Mountains.

A regular contributor to European Press Photo Agency and Thomson Reuters News Agency, Berry teaches photography at Pace Academy in Atlanta and works with non-profits and corporations to tell their story.

Berry's work has been featured in NPR, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Garden and Gun, Wired, LA Times, the New York Times, London Free Press, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, MSM, and many more. He has worked for Tyler Perry Studios, Amazon, Microsoft, the Coca-Cola Company, Modern Healthcare, Samsung, AT&T, Harvard BioScience, YouTube, Delta Airlines, Allstate, the Home Depot Foundation, Chick-Fil-A, and more. However, it’s storytelling that is Aluka-Berry’s passion.

“Being a small charter school in rural Appalachia, we were honored to be able to work with such a talented photographer as Chris, who offered his services pro bono. “We serve a diverse set of Appalachian students in our small mountain town. To see this talented artist work his photography skill and talent throughout the day was an impressive experience. He assured me. "I will shoot until the last student has left the campus for the day." Sometimes from a distance, other times, up close as captured in the picture above, we are certain the story captured through the Chris Aluka Berry lens will add value to larger and larger audiences throughout the unfolding of PROJECT BLU SKY.”

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