I made a lame attempt at rewriting the classic children’s story If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but that didn’t work out. The anti-welfare think piece just couldn’t marry up with my story about using publicly-funded goods and services from the US to create a unique opportunity for at-risk youths in Colombia to interact with cameras and photography. Instead, I’ll just write it the boring old-fashioned way.
First, some background. Outside the Lens is a San Diego-based non-profit organization which uses photography and video to teach children to look at themselves and their environment in a new way. A former Peace Corps Volunteer here in Colombia had a relationship with them, which resulted in OTL donating 15 digital point-and-shoot cameras, the necessary accessories, and access to the curriculum to our Peace Corps post.
Of course, once I discovered this, I began thinking about how I would make this happen. I shared the outline for the curriculum with the folks at the casa de cultura (the cultural house), and sure enough, they too loved it. They were looking for one last exhibit to do for the end of 2016, especially one that could tie in with their novenas. They said they would host the workshops, bring in the participants, print the final pictures, and host the final exhibition in conjunction with their final novena.
About 15 participants, from ages 7-15, came out for the three-day workshop. They all came from the same neighborhood where they were involved with an organization called Barrio Foto, and came accompanied by leader Mary. Due to a lack of resources, the organization actually does a lot that isn’t photography, so the kids were all really excited for this opportunity.
The first day we focused on the basics of photography. Rather than getting really technical about aperture and shutter speed, we talked about points of view. How we can use angles to make an image more visually-appealing and tell a story. The second day was all about self-portraits. How can they show through a single picture who they really are? (P.S. This is very difficult to figure out in a day; in my university photography class this was a multi-week assignment.) Our final session was called “A Piece of Me.” This was all about showing a part of them that was integral to who they are as people, and would go with their self-portrait to create a diptych.
One of my favorite things about working with these young people was how enthusiastic they were. They weren’t dying to borrow my phone to take selfies – they were dying to use their borrowed cameras to show how they see the world. Each day as we parted ways, they asked repeatedly, “We’re doing this again tomorrow, right?!”
The day of the show at the casa de cultura, the young people were really excited to show their parents and family members their printed works. As they left, they asked, “When are you coming again?” Fortunately for them, I am working on figuring that out now! I fell in love with the youth and the leader from their neighborhood who accompanied them. Hopefully, you will see more