Every year I have the pleasure of being contracted to go into northern Manitoba schools and teach middle year and high school kids how to photograph. I will usually do 8 to 10 schools from October through January. To me, this is the greatest satisfaction I get when I pack up after a 4 day session and drive home thinking what these kids have done during that time. Let me explain.
The schools that participate are usually provided through a process of funding availability. I make all the arrangements with the principals, time my trips in order to teach several schools back to back depending on their location, travel with all my teaching gear ie: 15-20 cameras, digital projector, laptop, a multitude of backup equipment and of course my course curriculum which I have created to suit various grade levels.
Here is what the kids learn from my course. Each session is usually 2 days with up to 20 students per class and 2 schools per week. The kids come into my class not having a clue what is happening for the next 2 days. I start off with introductions, get the feel of mood and enthusiasm and then hit them with a major slide show of my work, about 12 minutes of high end work with music. The slideshow is not to impress them but rather to figure out why I chose these images to be shown, what makes them similar and what the 4 elements of photography consist of. Some figure it out right away but most cannot.
I teach “ The Art of Seeing “ and before the slides are done they will have been told that the 4 ingredients are light, color, shape and composition. They are taught that the 4 ingredients must take shape in the camera viewfinder and that the image is to simply have one meaning, in other words, no clutter.
They are then given instructions as to how to use the camera and how the camera works. Most of the kids I teach have rarely ever picked up a camera so to them it is a toy and it must be respected. They are told that the most important part of the camera is not the lens but the strap that must be worn around their wrist at all times while in use.
Throughout the day they are allowed to photograph in school corridors, empty classrooms or within the school outdoor property. Sometimes we will take school buses to special places. Their many lessons throughout the day are structured to capture shapes, color and light in creative ways like various camera angles, zoom settings and by using objects to create light or shadows.
The first time they go out and shoot is the hardest. I try to teach one on one of what they are expected to look for. They usually do not have a clue so we form little groups and go through the process of visualizing shapes they would normally walk by. These images they have taken for the first time are immediately critiqued which gives the class a clear idea of what I am looking for. Images improve immediately and from what you see posted are just a few results of what has been created within a few short days by young students that very quickly understood the meaning of visualizing.