i to eye workshops aim to use photography as a therapeutic aid. They create a fun and engaging environment in which the participants learn the basics of photography whilst being encouraged to use their cameras as a means of exploring and expressing themselves and the hardships many of them have endured and continue to face on a daily basis. i to eye hopes to redress the balance of photojournalism a little by placing the camera in the hands of those often the subject of photographs and allowing them to tell their own stories for a change and to control the context in which these stories are then seen.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The second half of the week...

It has been a long few days. Yesterday I was amazed to hear that despite the fact that it was Shiva’s birthday and a day of festivities and fasting all the girls chose to come to the workshop. I was very moved by this and by their dedication and excitement. In the morning of the second day we started by rewinding their films and sent them off to be developed. After this we started a photographic treasure hunt which had the girls running all over the place. They seemed to love this but I quickly realised that due to the festival they were fasting and were quickly starting to get tired so I decided to shorten the exercise to ensure no one fainted! Whilst they all took to the treasure hunt well a few of the girls did not quite understand why I wanted them to photograph something round or rough or small or bright. Some of these seemed hard concepts for them to grasp but they remained enthusiastic which was wonderful to see.

I am quickly realising that while teaching is great it is exhausting! A lot of things take much longer to get through than I thought and it is surprisingly always the simplest organisational tasks in class that take the most time, like sorting the girls pictures and putting them on the wall. However I am learning a lot in a very short space of time and hopefully quickly correcting any exercises that are not working quite as planned.

It was wonderful to see that the girls turned up with stories, poems and drawings in their journals. They are so dedicated and often when I turn around or they are waiting for a few moments I find them busy creatively filling their journals. I am surprised how well they write though a lot of it is in Hindi. I took copies of their journals today so that Simi can translate them for me and I can ensure that I can keep up to date with what the girls are thinking and feeling.

One of the girls turned up in tears yesterday as she had opened the back of the camera when she was at home but her father had gone and bought her another film to replace it and she had shot with that. It was lovely to hear that her father supported her and the workshop in that way. You hear so many bad stories here about Indian men it is great to see a father so supportive of his daughter. During the day however she looked a little lost again and I soon discovered that her camera was not working properly. I managed to find a way around it and luckily today with a new film it seems to be ok though I will know when I see her next pictures developed. She is so desperate to get it right and to please me that it breaks my heart she has had these difficulties. She seems very creative and has done a beautiful job of decorating her journal so far putting more time, care and effort into it than anyone else. It is still hard to get the girls not to take the same pictures and to do things independently. I forget sometimes that they have never been encouraged to use their own minds or to express their own taste. So many of them seem at a loss and often look to me to say whether a picture they want to take is ok or not. I keep trying to encourage them to express their own vision and reiterate the fact that there is no right or wrong answer.

Today we looked through the girls work and I talked a lot about focus. Although the girls all say they understand and they are using the focusing dials when questioned further I don’t really think any of them have been in their excitement to take the shot. I showed them again so I hope things will be a little sharper next time. When it came to putting their pictures up I realised there was a lot to be positive about and a lot to talk about and for the girls to learn from. It is less exciting for them than actually photographing but it is important to try and teach them about technique and to encourage them to talk about their work. We discussed concepts of colour, composition and viewpoint and some of these concepts were clearly displayed in the girls images so I can see that some things are being taken in. I realise that I should adapt my timetable and simplify the exercises and the lessons a lot. It is also very important I realise for me to start the lesson very clear about what I hope to achieve in those few hours. It is surprisingly easy to get distracted and forget things. What took the most time today was just collecting the different images from the girls and sticking them on the board in order. I started by talking about each concept but realised that by the tenth photograph I was just repeating myself and the girls attention was drifting so I switched to discussing each girls work separately which went much faster and was much more successful. From now on I will make sure I put the pictures up in the morning whenever possible so they are ready for the afternoon lesson.

I am truly blown away by some of the girls work and was especially excited to see their first photographs of home. We will go through these tomorrow and I look forward to starting to hear about the girl’s home lives and to meet their families. I feel so close to them already and it has only been a few days and though a few of the pictures were not sharp many of the girls’ compositions were fantastic. I can’t wait to see more of their work. I will get on top of the lab in the next few days and redo the class timetable over the weekend to simplify it so that everything flows as smoothly as possible. As I said before I am convinced I am learning more than the girls themselves but they seem happy and the images they have produced show real promise which marks a successful end to the first week of the workshop.

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