This reflective article focuses on a series of semester-long activities conducted with developmental writers in an urban community college classroom. It builds on the research of John Berger (1972) and Sondra Perl (1994) who highlight seeing and perception as key components of self-composition. The article showcases assignments where students created photo journals as a way to share their lives, thoughts, and experiences. The use of structured prompts allowed students to actively engage with their neighborhoods -- a sort of text to be read, captured, and ultimately decoded through written explanation. The examples will be useful to practitioners who may be thinking about how best to embrace student experiences within the classroom.