Firstly and most importantly, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to all of the blog readers, newsletter subscribers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers who have helped me spread the news of my photo charity project (as yet, still unnamed – any ideas?). The response has been better than I would dared have hoped and I’ve received so many messages of encouragement and support, offers of help and introductions to people of influence that I’m really very humbled.
I should make it clear that none of what follows would have been possible without my good fortune to have been introduced to the work of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, who provide the children with much-needed care and support in so many ways. Indeed, the opportunity to introduce the children to photography only exists because of the WWO‘s kind support and understanding.
Downloads of the Desktop Wallpaper Pack have been better than I anticipated and I’d like to thank everybody who has taken the time and trouble to share a link, tweet, post and tell their online social media contacts about my project. Here’s a Facebook “Like” button for you to use and there are other social media buttons at the foot of the post.
So, I arrived in Addis Ababa yesterday and got straight to work. Returning to the school where I’d photographed in November 2011 was a real treat. I have lots to report and lots that I’d like to share from that re-introduction but, the truth is, I’ve been working pretty hard to get to this point and the part of my brain that looks after vocabulary has gone on strike and I don’t think I can do it justice.
So, better than that, I’d like to share some images, taken by the effervescent Bethy, one of the students who I met last year, when I also spent some time with her family.
On the school bus
After a brief introduction to the camera, she photographed her bus journey home at the end of the day and the way back to her home, where I enjoyed one of the finest cups of tea I’ve ever had.
Bethy is a natural, she sees opportunities everywhere and I’m convinced she will take some fascinating photographs over the next few weeks. I’ve noted a few things that will need attention. For example, the tiny camera lens was so covered in grubby fingerprints after just five minutes that it was unusable. All the kids decided that the best thing for delicate optical equipment is an index finger rubbed around the front element.
Bethy’s hit-rate is pretty low, there are lots of blurry shots, plenty of out-of-focus shots where she’s tried to photograph the inside of a friend’s nostrils at such close quarters that the poor camera can’t figure out what’s going on. But that’s easy to fix and we’ll have a discussion about minimum focal lengths and macro photography in one of our classes
It’s worth noting though, that when I say “her hit rate was pretty low”, that’s my judgement and her own criteria for what makes a “good” photograph may be entirely different. We will learn more in the next few weeks.
However, cutting to the chase, let me just say this: Watching Bethy stroll home after school, pausing to photograph a dog in the street, a man chopping wood, a boy on a bicycle and anything else that caught her eye was enchanting. Magical. I really don’t have a word that will do it justice.
I think we could accurately describe this as "street" photography
And every time Bethy took a photo, she told me the word for the subject in Amharic. So, as expected, this learning process is definitely going to work in both directions. Enough from me, here are Bethy’s very first photographs.
Bethy is now the Official Bus Photographer - here's a nicely under-exposed shot of her friend
A bit of creative framing...
You can't say that Bethy isn't prepared to get up close to her subjects...
I think this is a really good example of the kind of undiluted approach to composition that kids have, it's very instinctive
Immediacy and intensity, you can't beat a wide-angle perspective
On the way back to Bethy’s house, we passed a man chopping wood and after a quick word of encouragement, Bethy took the following sequence of images.
Notice how she instinctively does something that I am often encouraging workshop students to do: she starts from a wider viewpoint, moves closer, keeps shooting, varies angles, switches formats from landscape to portrait and back again and changes perspective. This is not a learned approach, it’s completely natural. It’s not contrived or manufactured, she hadn’t been taught to do this, it’s simply how a child naturally moves around a subject with a camera.
My advice? If we could all adopt a more instinctive and childlike approach to our photography, we might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
I was interested to see that Bethy shared each photo she took with her subjects, immediately turning the camera around. It’s possible that she’s noticed me doing this but I think it’s more likely that she just wants to share the enjoyment and knows that her friends and neighbours will be just as fascinated seeing the image as she is.
...and Bethy hasn't even taken my workshop yet...
We teach compositional guidelines including “Rule-of-Thirds” and “Negative Space” in classes at the Bangkok Photo School but perhaps these are things that we might do instinctively before we feel the need to think too hard about our photography. Look at this example of both of those compositional ideas.
Bethy's neighbour, what a compelling subject for a portrait
Back at Bethy's house for tea with the family and Bethy spies the light from the window shining on the teapot.
Chopping tomatoes in preparation for dinner
Proof that a great subject and sympathetic light are the best ingredients for engaging images.
Well, you don't always find the best subjects but that doesn't mean that you should miss the opportunity to capture a "decisive moment".
I hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing some of Bethy’s very first photographs. She’s using the camera over the weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s captured when Monday arrives.
Don’t forget, if you would like to contribute to this project, where I am bringing the opportunity to learn photography to children who might otherwise never get the chance, you can download the pack of 31 Desktop Wallpaper images from around the world, which I have compiled especially to support this project.