A dirt road; bark peeling off a tree; blooming flowers – all sights we see regularly see, and perhaps don’t give much thought to. Viewed through the lens of a camera, however, these ordinary, everyday sights become extraordinary pieces of art. For the senior citizens of Mariposa County capturing these images, they also become an integral part of an engaging social, artistic, and educational experience.

In 2013, the Mariposa County Arts Council piloted F/STOP, a free artist-in-residency program which offers 2-5 week photography classes for residents of Mariposa who are at least 55 years of age. Classes are offered each fall in downtown Mariposa and Greeley Hill, and at the Ewing Wing of the John C. Fremont Health Care District, with a modified curriculum designed to specially accommodate participants living in hospice care. F/STOP is designed to promote creativity, self-expression, and increase participants’ comfort levels with digital technology as historical points of interest throughout Mariposa are captured on film.

F/STOP participants learn to appreciate the language of photography, and learn new photographic skills through discussion-based activities, field photography excursions, and critiques focused on the artistic aspects of photography. The Mariposa County Arts Council recognized that it is a community’s elders who have traditionally been the keepers of culture, passing on the history and norms of a community to the next generation. F/STOP honors and celebrates this tradition by providing Mariposa’s older adults with a forum to share their unique perspectives and narratives with the community at large through an annual, multi-sided exhibition of work produced throughout the program. Each year, this exhibition is held at the Mariposa County Arts Council’s Treetop Gallery, the Mariposa County Library, and Greeley Hill’s Red Cloud Library.

Photographs from F/STOP participants sits on display during the annual exhibition. (Photo Credit: Mariposa County Arts Council)

The medium of photography has distinct advantages for older adults, as it transcends the prerequisites of fine motor skills and, instead, allows the artist and the viewer alike to discover the world through heightened realms of sight and imagination. Growing bodies of research indicate that older adults have a great capacity for learning new ideas and skills, and that community-based art programs in particular have positive, lasting impacts on senior citizens’ physical and mental health. Keep reading to learn about how F/STOP impacted the life of one participant:

“In [F/STOP], we discussed the fundamentals of photography such as contrast, pattern, and perspective. Trying new things has dropped some of the [technology] anxiety I previously experienced. This basic information helped me to open my eyes wider and take in the gifts around me.

Being out in nature is one of my favorite things to do, so this class has pushed me to take some time for small adventures. From walking around Bass Lake, to wandering a path in Yosemite, I find that photography awakens some deeper element of being present in the moment.” Judy DeRosa (aka Little Wing), Echota Cherokee Elder

For more information on F/STOP, please visit the Mariposa County Arts Council’s website. Continue scrolling to view F/STOP photos, and be sure to out the Mariposa County Arts Council’s tumblr page for even more photos!

A photo taken by an F/STOP participant. (Photo Credit: Mariposa County Arts Council)

A photo taken by F/STOP participant Janna Weigle.

A photo taken by F/STOP participant Sharon Coolidge.

The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to support programs like the Mariposa County Arts Council’s F/STOP through our Arts and Culture grant program. For more information on grants from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page of our website.