As some of y'all know, I work with some of the 6th graders from Yellowstone Academy on Wednesday afternoons. Several years ago, I began a photo class for their after school program. For the first two years we did the class only in the spring. However, this year the class lasted all year long! It has been great, the kids have learned a lot, and taken some great photos. I'm really proud of them. I decided this past summer that I wanted them to be thinking more about their photos. The previous two years we used Olympus point and shoot 35mm film cameras. These worked great, especially for the age of the students at that time (they were in 4th and 5th grade during those two years). However, last year students were spending too much time running around, holding their camera up high and just taking thoughtless photos. I was not very happy with that. Therefore, I decided they were getting old enough this school year (6th grade) to learn how to use a REAL camera...a true, FULLY MANUAL 35mm camera. So I searched ebay for a couple months this summer, putting together a nice collection of used Pentax K-1000 camera (a classic, workhorse student camera).
A little background on Yellowstone and my history with the school. Yellowstone Academy is a private Christian school serving underprivileged children of Houston (please click on the link and visit their website to really learn about the school and the students they serve). It is an amazing place, with wonderful teachers and a strong sense of community. Students get two meals a day there (for some, this is the only food they see all day!). Most importantly, though, they are in a supportive environment, surrounded by people who want to see these awesome kids succeed! I have been blessed to work with the school since my senior year in high school, when my high school's "Outreach" program sent me there. During college I would return when I could (though not often enough). However, my senior year in college I had an opportunity to create this after school photo class, and use it as one of my final projects in art school. Thankfully, Yellowstone was willing to work with me, and allow me to teach their oldest group of students, who at the time were 4th graders. Everything went great, and since moving back to Houston we've decided to keep it up. It has been a wonderful experience, and I always look forward to what the kids can produce!
So, back to this year's class! I decided, "No more, easy, thoughtless photos!" I wanted my students to have to think about the photos they were taking, to OWN their photography. Therefore, we were going to have to learn to use good old, fully manual cameras! We spent the entire first semester of school learning how to use the cameras. We talked about how to control them mechanically, and we also discussed things like perspective, depth of field, and the ability of photos to tell a story. At the end of the first semester, all of my students took a test to determine if they had earned the right to have their beautiful, fully manual Pentax K-1000. I nervously handed out the tests, got them back and graded them. EVERYONE PASSED! Hooray! Now we could actually begin taking photos, and getting into projects. Christmas break began, and I prayed that everything we learned from the first semester would not be forgotten over the break!
When we returned for the second semester, we did a quick review, and began on projects. The students looked at their beautiful new cameras, and were like, "Huh? How old are these things! They must be from like the 70s or something?!?" They wanted to know where the digital cameras were. I assured them that these were great cameras, and that if used correctly, they would take photos as good or better than digital cameras. So we began some different projects, photographing portraits, color, action, and self portraits. Most of the time the students didn't completely follow the projects. Most of my students enjoy photographing people the most. But that is fine by me.
I've learned a lot this past semester, how to teach this group, and how to interact with them. They are a great group, and I've had a lot of fun with them. I'm excited about the photos they've produced, and would like to share some below. We are going to hang a show in the school for the last week of school, and these are the photos that my students have chosen to be in the show. Three of my students haven't chosen their work yet, and so hopefully they'll have the chance to this afternoon. I hope you enjoy the work!
Photographer: Makayla (Self Portrait Project...what a cool idea)
Photographer: Blossom (I'm really excited about this photo. Blossom told me that she also likes to write, and I thought this would be such a cool photo to write about. I've encouraged her to write a narrative, or poem, or whatever she'd like, using this photo as a basis. I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with!)
I'll post my remaining three students photographs for the show once they choose their two favorites.