Carolyn Black was a young girl when her cousin Jim moved into the third floor of the family’s six-flat. “He loved taking pictures of anything and anybody,” Black said. “He introduced to all the young people on the block how to take pictures.”

Black was talking about her cousin Jim Taylor – “J.T.” to family and friends – the founder of, and artistic visionary for, the Community Film Workshop of Chicago. “Jimmy helped develop young minds and opened the doors for so many,” she said.

Taylor had just returned to Chicago from a trip to Mexico, when he set up a photographic studio and started teaching classes. He had a profound effect on Black arts and Chicago media education. His 50-year career included freelance photography for Ebony, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily Defender. The Chicago Tribune named him one of four of the finest arts teachers in the city in 1996. He died in 2000 from cancer. “At his memorial,” Black said, “half the local media industry showed up.”

Laurence Logan, 14, is also a Taylor cousin. Logan sketches portraits, landscapes and abstracts but had never done film. Then he attended a summer digital video camp. During the class he made his own two-minute film. “Filming is a lot more realistic than sketching, which is more imaginary for me,” Morgan said. He wants to make his next film on how a car is built. “I’m interested in cars,” he said.

His favorite part of the class? Editing. “It comes down to editing. It pretty much makes the film. You add music, or animation, do the transitions,” he said.

CFWC director Margaret Caples said young people take to the new digital film-making technology very quickly: “The new technology makes video-making more accessible. Young people have grown up with the medium. So they just do it. No fear.”

Learning to make a film or video gives you important skills for life. “Video making is a collaborative art form. Each person has a specific job. They get together and complete a project. It teaches life skills like cooperation, research, proofreading and being on time. They learn from their mistakes,” Caples said.

– Terrie Albano
(sketch by Laurence Logan)