ALAMEDA -- Like so many people, Anne Kohler, of Alameda, couldn't shake the despair that came with the December 2012 deaths of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. She has young children of her own, one a first-grader.
A professional photographer, Kohler felt a need to take some kind of personal action to express the loss of the fallen children and adults. That need manifested into a photo exhibit, "The Things We Lost," at Frank Bette Center for the Arts. The show will run through March 30. Each of the 20 photographs of Alameda children represents what Kohler believes are gifts that children bring to the world -- laughter, play, bravery and "everything." She also photographed six Alameda teachers who wrote statements about their feelings about children and about the sorrowful news in Newtown.
In her own statement about the exhibit, Kohler wrote, "The best way I knew how to have a voice in a situation that felt overwhelming and oppressive was through my art. I called the mother of Alice, the first of my photography models, and talked to her about this project. I knew that Alice's soulful eyes would represent the vulnerability of our children and reach people's hearts. Alice's mom's reaction, like the rest of the families and teachers who contributed, was enthusiastic. She was touched and relieved to have an outlet for her own anger and sadness."
The soulful photographs do not provide the children's names, but they do capture the unmarred beauty of youth and the depth of their expressions, whether pensive, dreamy, eager or grinning. To read more of Kohler's statement, go to http://www.frankbettecenter.org/exhibit and find the Signature Salon tab.
Kohler put the exhibit on her Facebook wall and has had more than 2,000 responses from six countries and from Newtown residents. She said they have all been favorable; a French online photographic publication contacted her to ask permission to run the photographs.
The Frank Bette Center for the Arts is located at 1601 Paru St. at Lincoln Avenue. Regular gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 510-523-6957 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.