The second week of my trip meant getting down to business: Teaching. I was privileged enough to have found a center in which a previous volunteer had donated a selection of digital cameras in time for my arrival. With sustainability in mind, the cameras were donated as a tool to generate an income. In the future, the photographs taken by the children at the club will be uploaded to an online platform which will allow the public to download the selected photograph as a digital file in exchange for a donation.
For the duration of my time at the club, I taught Photography classes up to three times a week. Sadly, only four of the 12 donated cameras functioned efficiently meaning classes had to be tailored to suit group work. Each week the class sizes changed mainly due to the class being held in the morning or afternoon. The younger children, usually attending the club after school, were eager to join in when the older children were still undertaking business activities. My class sizes could range from 4 children up to 20, meaning I had to prepare an adaptable lesson plan, or in many cases, a variety in which to choose from.
Narrative in Sequence
In my first lesson, I was faced with a large group of nearly twenty students. Stares of apprehension and excitement glared at me with an eagerness to see what the lesson would entail. To tackle the aspect of group work head on, we focused on narrative photography in the form of sequences. The students were segregated into groups and asked to brainstorm ideas surrounding the theme of narrative. Using a Powerpoint presentation, I showed a diverse range of photographic works from Photographers who create narrative sequential imagery to inspire and get the creativity flowing. Within their groups, each person was assigned a roll; director, actor and photographer. Roles would be shared and rotated to allow each individual a chance to dwell behind the camera. The outcome in the above sequence of photographs depicts a guy trying to win a girl’s heart by approaching her. The girl doesn’t agree with what he is saying and results in a slap to the face. This sequence was a humorous and lighthearted narrative and a joy to watch from the sideline as the drama unfolded.
The portraiture lesson was a huge success. The class was allowed out of the Club gates and encouraged to explore the surrounding area in the open air. Each group had to offer up three portraits each whilst directing and assisting other members in the process. I asked my students to consider harsh shadows and patches of light, an easy find in the African climate, positioning themselves amongst the natural foliage. Facial expressions were an important topic of conversation to steer clear from silly faces and cheesy grins. The sincere and reflective expressions soon surfaced and a range of beautiful portraits were produced.
Self Portraiture as Still Life
As an avid lover of self portraiture and self expression, creating personal still life photographs was an uplifting task. We set up a makeshift still life studio using a white sheet draped over a paint stricken table and placed it against a rather textured and discolored wall. Each student was asked to collect objects that gave the viewer an insight into their life be it in the form of a hobby, passion or dream for the future. They then had the opportunity to arrange the objects in front of the lens and capture the scene, altering it’s appearance a number of times if desired. Solo soon became a crowd as everybody engaged in helping one another to direct and position the objects as well as assist from behind the camera.
Pushing the self portraiture aspect of Photography to its fullest, I decided to challenge the children in taking ‘Selfies’. These self portraits however were to be created using a tripod or the self-timer function. After getting to know each and every child, parts of their personalities resonated within each photograph. The self-portraits produced were fragments of their personalities in a visual form; honest, barefaced and gracious. The children interacted in their own way at their own pace with the camera and a deep connection was made. The final images were twinned with a photograph of what makes them the happiest at that moment. Many produced depicted their favorite hobbies, talents or being outside surrounded by nature.
Combining my passion for teaching Photography with travelling was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to have found a wonderful center in which to become a part of and blessed with such a talented group of young people to share my passion with. I surpassed the testing language barrier and the uncertainty of class sizes to be rewarded with happy students and a keen desire to learn. Whether Photography ever becomes a career path or not for any one of my students, I have witnessed first hand the benefits a camera has in a classroom as a tool for learning.
You can see more of the Boys & Girls Club photographs here: