As usual, the day before the graduation ceremony is a busy one. We did our photo critique in the morning and then sent the students off to practice their speeches and prep themselves for the graduation ceremony.
Around 5 p.m., the students’ exhibition prints were delivered from the local print shop. We gathered the students and had them come to take some time and contemplate the work they’ve done throughout the week. Then each student signed two copies of their print – and we declared them artists and photographers! It’s an intense moment: that recognition of the work that they’ve done. Not surprisingly, there were more than a few tears and lots and lots of emotional embraces.
Then, all of us instructors locked ourselves in a room to review more than 36,000 images and make video montages of the week.
On graduation day, there were even more tears! The theme for this workshop should be “transformation.” We had a few kids who came into this week with pretty low opinions of their abilities. One student is 17 years old and in the sixth grade. Another student had never heard anyone tell him that he did anything well. Still another lacked the confidence to consider his own value as a young man. And by the end of this week, students were standing and confidently addressing a huge crowd.
We had an exhibition of the students’ works in print form, and a big gathering where we showed videos of the students’ work, including a slideshow compilation of all the stories we photographed this week and a fun gag reel to end the day with some laughs.
This was one of the larger graduation ceremonies we’ve ever had, and it was also attended by the secretary of education and the chairman of the Aga Khan Foundation Portugal.
This is what really brings it home for us. We love photography, we love to travel, and we love teaching our students. But the greatest thing about this workshop is that in every class, and in every city in which we set up our little circus tent, kids are built up and empowered.
Here is a final behind-the-scenes gallery of our students and instructors in action this week: