By WENDY WALSH
Thursday began with students who seemed revived from an extra hour of sleep. You learn pretty early on in this workshop game that bus naps and frequent tea and snack breaks make for happy, productive teenage photographers!
We started with a critique of yesterday’s images when the students worked on two different topics. One group photographed a neighborhood clinic that offered a wide variety of health care services from diagnostic testing to dental care. The other three groups photographed three different families to show a comparison of community in parts of the old city as opposed to the more modern areas in Hyderabad. We had discussed in class how cameras can act as passports, and for many of the students, traveling across town and being invited into a home in a different neighborhood was as new and surprising as traveling outside of India. Our students were received graciously and responded with poise and maturity that made us all proud. We love it when our message of MAKING pictures instead of TAKING pictures is evidenced by well-mannered photographers; these guys know how special it is to learn and grow through that magical machine that captures light and moments.
Students led the discussion of their photos during critique and could have done it all on their own, but proud teachers couldn’t help chiming in. Critiques serve the students in so many ways. Every image they see helps them build their visual library of what certain techniques look like and how light reacts in different situations. Critiquing has a cumulative effect in our workshops, so students are able to explain their thinking and defend their favorites by this time in the week.
We followed up our critique with a slide show by instructor Thomas Kelly who is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Thomas shared his work covering the April 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck this April. Seeing such powerful images and being able to talk about the process of making them was a gift for everyone in the room. I’ve often described these workshop weeks as graduate school for me because I learn so much from the other teachers as well as from the students.
After lunch at the school canteen (Cute, right? Canteen?) we headed out to document vocational training programs throughout the city. Our drive was the typical hair-raising rumble through lane-less streets where we could reach through the van window and touch the driver beside you. When my crew arrived at the carpentry shop, we were rewarded with a visual feast. The sawdust was flying, and if you want to see happy photographers, give them anything but locusts flying through the air. We go crazy for those fabulous suspended particles that make our light come to life. You can imagine our response when we went upstairs where workmen were spraying shellac on wooden chairs while standing directly in front of gorgeous window light. Suspended spray plus light plus no OSHA restrictions keeping us away from this photo opportunity made for some ecstatic photographers. I knew at that moment by the intensity of their shooting that the students really understood that photography means, “To write with light.”