When is a pinhole a large opening? Douglas Housman, a junior studying neuroscience, has spent the past month giving out the answer to this riddle.
On Monday and Tuesday nights, Housman teaches photography to groups of HIV-infected adults in downtown Baltimore. His illustrative and functional tool has been the pinhole camera, a homemade device that uses a needle-sized hole to form a picture.
Housman's goal is for his students to understand the basics of photography before they start taking pictures with more traditional equipment.
"Anyone can pick up a disposable camera and press a button," Housman says. "But with this limited medium they force themselves to pay attention to the principles behind photography."
Housman believes that teaching people photography opens them up to the world around them, to look at their surroundings in a new and different way.
Housman, too, has a different outlook on life these days.
The money for the supplies Housman uses in his photography workshops comes from his Louis E. Goodman, M.D., Award, established in 1988 to encourage the cultural interests of Hopkins' premedical students.
Each year a cash award of up to $2,000 is given to selected juniors to undertake a project in the arts and humanities. The goal of the award is to foster the sensitivity of prospective doctors to ideas and matters beyond the realm of medicine. Louis Goodman, for whom the award is named, was by profession a surgeon and by avocation an artist.
Housman, one of three students chosen for the award this year, agrees that as a premed student, it's easy to get lost in study.
"Everyone complains that you never have time to do things that you love because you're always busy studying," Housman says.
Housman says he chose to teach photography to HIV-infected people due in part to a high school experience: a favorite teacher had been infected with the AIDS virus but still continued to teach throughout Housman's high school career.
"While he was teaching, he also did art and focused his time on being creative. In this way he was able to achieve a sort of happiness and resolve," Housman says. "Similarly, I felt that my passion for photography was something, in my small way, that I could offer to people who have this disease."
Housman is currently teaching photography at the Health Education Resource Organization, a service for HIV-infected men and women. The second phase of Housman's project will be to teach pediatric AIDS/HIV-infected individuals. He intends for many of his pupils to use their new-found skill at the HERO AIDSwalk that will take place at the Inner Harbor on May 22. Housman plans on giving them all disposable cameras to record their day.
Like Housman, Sarvenaz Zand chose to use her Goodman Award to impart her love of photography to other students. When Zand first learned of the award, she tried to think of different projects that would involve her passion for the art form.
She chose to focus on the fact she had been a bit of a "late-bloomer," photography-wise, and decided she wanted to teach young kids the art of black and white photography.
"Photography was something I learned while I was in high school, and in some ways I felt disadvantaged to have started so late," says Zand, a biomedical engineering major. "It's always better to start when you are young and have years to develop your skills."
Zand did her homework and discovered that fifth-graders would be an ideal set of students.
"Since they are at the top of their school, fifth-graders tend to have a very high maturity level. They are old enough to be ambitious about their learning, yet young enough to have enthusiasm and plenty of time to develop their creativity," Zand says. "They are very eager to be doing what the 'big kids' do."
For her project Zand will be teaching photography to students at the Barclay Elementary School, located a few blocks from the Homewood campus. She feels it will be real "eye opening" experience for them.
"The first place I'd like to take them is their school playground," Zand says. "I want them to learn to picture familiar objects in black and white, to take notice of their angles, shadows and form. It will be a neat experience for the kids to capture everyday items in a different way."
Zand hopes to serve as a role model for the students, reinforcing the importance of artistic endeavors throughout one's life.
Steven Chang got the inspiration for his project out of a magazine.
"It was an article about the Foundation for Hospital Art and how they try to involve patients and the families of the patients," says Chang, a public health major. "As a painter, I felt this art had some therapeutic value to it. I thought this is something that could be offered year-round at the hospital."
Chang's project will involve going to the Geriatric Center of Bayview Medical Center to teach patients how to paint with acrylics. Chang will give each person a square piece of canvas that has a predrawn black-ink pattern on it. Each piece is part of a larger work that Chang already has painted.
"They will dab it with color and fill it in. They won't know what the finished painting will look like," Chang says. "I decided to do it this way because I would like to see them accomplish something that can be displayed and have fun while doing it. I think this is a more unique approach than for them to paint just random stuff; for one, they might have a hard time deciding what to paint."
Chang says he already had his idea before he learned of the Goodman Awards.
"I always wanted to do something art-related on campus," Chang says. "I also wanted to do something in conjunction with the hospital, and when I heard of the Goodman Awards, I thought this was just perfect. I'm very excited about it."
Ronald Fishbein, co-chair of the health professions committee, is chair of the Goodman Awards selection committee. Fishbein, who knew Goodman, says the late surgeon would be thrilled to know what the award winners are doing these days.
"He was a very cultured man who loved the arts," Fishbein says. "He intended this award to be given to any Hopkins undergraduate premedical student who showed interest in the arts, whether it be writing, poetry, dance, sculpting. Premedical students get so involved with science and studies that they don't realize there is a whole other world out there."
Applicants must propose a worthwhile project that clearly requires a financial subsidy and must demonstrate prior serious interest and accomplishment in the proposed area of activity. As for the projects, the students have many options.
"They could choose to study art someplace and use the money to go toward tuition, or just go paint somewhere," says Fishbein, professor emeritus of general surgery at the School of Medicine. "The projects are not required to have a humanitarian aspect."
Yet the fact that all three award winners chose to teach others the arts is something Fishbein is very proud of.
"I am very pleased," Fishbein says. "It's wonderful to see these kids give of themselves. These are some very generous people."