UPPER EAST SIDE — A Regis High School senior is using his photography skills to raise money for children orphaned by AIDS.
Luke Passannante's photos from a recent volunteer trip to Nairobi, Kenya, have gone on sale at Westchester County's Rye Arts Center — with proceeds going to a school he visited there serving students who have lost one or both parents to the disease.
Passannante and four other Regis seniors volunteered for 18 days at St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a tuition-free Jesuit high school for youth in Nairobi whose families have been ravaged by HIV/AIDS.
While there, Passannante snapped some 2,500 digital and film photos of the students and other children in the African city's Kibera slum.
He was particularly struck by seeing parentless children playing in trash-strewn streets and by watching others walking miles for water, balancing empty buckets on their heads, he explained.
Passannante was so moved that he wanted to do something to benefit the community, as well as St. Aloysius Gonzaga, by showing those in the U.S. a still documentary of daily life there.
"You see this in the news," he said, but "if you have the opportunity to share a photo, it gives a visual people can relate to.
"It would be such a waste to go on this trip and do nothing," he added.
So, the Westchester resident approached the arts center and asked whether he could rent gallery space at a discounted rate. Officials there agreed.
Now, Passannante will display some 65 photos through Sept. 7, according to the Rye Art Center's website.
Regis Assistant Principal Kristin Ross, one of several educators who chaperoned the trip, said Passannante's photos captured the dire difficulties facing Kibera's youth.
"He's capturing something that's so hard to describe, and sharing it," she said.
The photo prints, donated by a family friend, range in price from $20 to several hundred dollars.
Because the fundraiser's overhead is so low — just $50 for the gallery space rental — all proceeds will go to the Kenyan school, said Passannante, who also plays center on Regis' basketball team.
Passannante, who has shot photos since middle school and works on the school newspaper and yearbook, said he does not know whether he will pursue photography or basketball after he graduates.
He's confident, however, that they will both remain important parts of his life.
"I'm definitely going to keep both of those going for as long as I can," he said.
For now, his reputation as Regis' resident shutterbug remains, Ross noted.
"At all of our events, he has a camera around his neck," she said.
The show's opening ceremony takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Rye Arts Center, 51 Milton Road in Rye, N.Y.