At 3:45am on June 13, 2015 we put wheels down in Dushanbe, Tajikistan…and the new airport is fantastic!
We are back in Dushanbe for a short week to host an advanced class for the students of last October’s beginner workshop before heading up to Osh, Kyrgyzstan to put on the first Fredric Roberts Photography Workshop there. This time the team consists mostly of west coasters with Fred Roberts leading the charge, usual suspects Sarah Megan Lee, Arthur Ollman, and Mike Sakas in the dugout, and Kevin Vu filling the fifth spot on the roster. Having come in waves on the only flight from Istanbul to Dushanbe, the team arrived over a period of a few days on the 3:45AM flight with Sarah arriving last on the morning of our first class. But by 7:30 on Saturday, after Sarah only just arrived, the team was having breakfast and getting ready to reunite with the students.
Last October, after the Beginners’ Workshop in Khorog, and while Mike and Tony were off riding yaks in the mountains, Fred returned to Dushanbe to spend a few days photographing, exploring, and meeting with AKF and AKES administrators. It was then that Fred visited the Ismaili Center: the incredible future site of this ADV class. Housing numerous classrooms, a library, gardens, gathering spaces and a grand Musalla (prayer hall), this education, cultural and religious center was so perfect for the program that Fred immediately began talks to return to Dushanbe to host the advanced class.
Already the Ismaili Center Dushanbe is a better venue than any we could have hoped for. The spirit of the place inspires curiosity and reflection and the classroom facilities are perfect for our needs. It’s also one of the most impressive learning environments many of our students have ever worked in. They are psyched to be learning here and it shows in their effort. Most of these students come from the region in the far east known as the Gorno-Badakshan region where Aga Khan Educational Services is responsible for most of the school programs. The students attend a regional secondary school with good basic facilities. Here at the Ismaili Center however, the students feel as though they could be attending a University in any one of the worlds first cities.
The advanced class is meant to push these students and their abilities to a higher level as well. Reviewing the fundamentals where we left off, Fred, Sarah and the team are challenging the students’ understanding of making a photograph. During the beginner class last October, our students learned to make proper exposures and operate the camera on manual mode: no small feat.
For the advanced class, however, we are giving the students even more voice and responsibility. During their first workshop, the students were taught good technique, and then we assigned them a story to photograph. During the advanced class, however, the students are learning not only better control of their image, but also to express their own ideas and learning to exercise their own voice. Using themes as assignments instead of specific story ideas, the students explore their own vision and create photographs with intentionality. This is some seriously high level learning for students and these lessons don’t apply only to photography.