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Posts tagged ‘teaching’

Students’ pics from a Mobile Phone Photography course I ran recently….

some the excellent end results from my students from a recent mobile phone photography course I ran in Hermanus, on the Garden route in South Africa.

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A decade-long journey – Learning to love mobile phone photography

How I learnt to love mobile phone photography after I started to teach it.

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Hangberg and a different type of photography

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Been a while since I last blogged but that’s not to say haven’t been busy.

I’ve hired an assistant to help me out with all the backlog of work  I had accumulated and was dreading to face – mainly helping with the cleaning and keywording of stock library images (which is not what I think she had in mind when she took the job – imagining exciting adrenaline-fuelled work and the such!).  I’ve strengthened my relationship with AMO who I love working with and also began engaging with a lot more with Alamy.

Apart from taking the whole stock library income stream seriously, I’ve also pushed forward on a couple of long-term photographic ideas and brought them through from conceptualisation, to proposal stage and have begun shooting them – one in Hangberg, a poor coloured community set in an amazingly stunning surrounding near where I live. And another in the Karoo – a vast desert expanse north of Cape Town.

The doccie on front-line services working on child rape took a break for a few months.  There have been a few problems concerning access that I have been dealing with and decided to stand back for a bit because the mild pressure I was applying had become counter-productive.  We have decent emotive general interviews now with all the key players except the police in Khayelitsha but what we really need to do is to follow a couple of cases through the system which is proving harder to do.

There is an ongoing Commission of Enquiry into the police force in Khaye at the mo looking into the high level of vigilantism in the township and looking at why the police force may not be stepping into the security vacuum.  This has managed to irk the police there no end and has lead to them being a lot more reticent in allowing access to media and the such.  I think it will happen but in the meantime we have been filming at the Thuthuzela Centre in Port Elizabeth where access is a lot more open.  Doing so has given me untold headaches though in terms of having to re-focus the short doccie away from Khayelitsha which was the main scope and re-writing the entire documentary script to incorporate all of this.

In the meantime, I was happy to work with the journalist Claire Simpson on a piece that gave a bit of publicity on the forthcoming short doccie in Vice magazine (UK) which can be seen here:

As for the photo projects, Hangberg is tentatively ready to put up here (which I have done above) although I realise I am still a very long way off from completion of the project.

I’ve done a lot of blogging about how I would like to evolve my work away from news photography into more long-term book and gallery exhibition projects.  Well – finally I can put my photos where my mouth is.  This is the first such project I am undertaking and has been a great joy to shoot as I’ve always wanted access into Hangberg.  Going back to the Benefits of Teaching Photography blogs I wrote – well, I managed to gain access through one of my more prodigious students I worked with on one of the courses I taught through the local charity Lalela and who now regularly works with me as my assistant in Hangberg.  I will be doing more teaching with Lalela and look forward to the opportunity to work with the kids again.

As for my assistant in Hangberg, he has been a masterstroke and am so happy I had the opp to meet him.  I sometimes walk into his house not knowing whether I will be beaten up or whether he will assist me – such is the look of anger on his face – but he is a solid – ‘all I’ve got in this world are balls and my word and I don’t break them for no-one’ type and trust him completely – so much so that I decided to shoot the project on my Hassleblad.

I have wondered whether it would have been better to shoot the Karoo desert project with the Hassleblad and the Hangberg project with my Canon 5D MkII (soon to be upgraded to MK III – can’t wait to use the new AF system – finally Canon have got it spot on!).  I originally thought that using the Hassleblad in Hangberg would force me somehow to slow down and take more static images rather than working with the faster and more dynamic Canons which would lead to more new-sy type images – smthg I of course have been trying to get away from.  The results have partly vindicated the decision but I have lost a lot of decent images there too mainly in very low-light conditions and esp at night where the Hassleblad struggles and where at ISO 800 (the max on the H4D-40) a lot of noise is introduced into the images.

I worry sometimes that the old reflexes as a news photographer didn’t come to play in the decision to employ the Hassleblad, simply so I can prove to myself I can walk around with it there –  Hassleblad may have got a camera on the moon (their own marketing blurb) but I bet they’ve never had one in Hangberg type thing!

I’ve had one or two hairy moments there – a gangster there told me outright he was going to steal my camera – when I laughed nervously he told me he was in fact very serious – I told him I knew he was but knew also that Denrico (my assistant there) is well-respected in the community and I was safe for now.  The gangster said as much.  Anyway – he was gracious enough to let me photograph him and I have given him A4 prints in return for the favour and we often greet each other now amicably enough.

As I’ve said – there is a long way to go with the Hangberg project but I am happy to put some of the images up now.  I have found the road away from my old type of work long and hard but without any initial feedback – I am happy with the new direction I am taking and with the type of work I am beginning to put out.  I am excited to get the short doccie finished too and know once that (and the Karoo photographic project) is complete, my shift will have been complete and I will be able to offer a new style and services to potential clients.

Teaching Photography and the great rewards that come from it (Part 3)

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Linda Velapi receiving her photography award from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for winning the Nationwide photography competition organised by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation on the theme of Reconciliation.

Linda was given a Sony a300 camera as part of her award and a placement on a photography course at the City Varsity School of Media and Crerative Arts in Cape Town.

Teaching photography and the great rewards that come from it (part 2)

Winning Image: A view of Hangberg and Hout Bay beyond. With such clear economic divisions in South Africa as a whole it is hard to foresee a time when true reconciliation will occur in the country. Until such inequalities are addressed, South Africa will never truly be at peace and stable as the current labour unrest is further evidence of. As in many Western societies, peace and social redemption is rooted with the emergence of a strong and large middle class in society.


One of the students who I was working with won the photography prize for the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation Awards – There is no greater reward in teaching than that..


Teaching photography and the great rewards that come from it…

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I have often tried to dispel as many of the sloppy clichés that photography – especially photojournalism has unfortunately sunk in to while writing on my blogs… Teaching photography def falls into that category.  It is often said in our rather snooty circles that only failed photographers teach… what a load of rubbish – or at least it should be with all photographers.  Teaching is not only about a job or even ‘giving back’.  It is an amazing way to hone your own skills and better yourself as a photographer on both a professional and a very personal level..

I had the pleasure recently to work with a group of 18 year olds – the first from the generation of ‘Born Free’s’ as they are called in SA from the townships in my locality through a local NGO called Lalela.  I taught them about photojournalism and mentored them in taking images for a nationwide competition organised by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation.  The theme was ‘Reconciliation’.

I found the kids amazing to work with and surprisingly receptive to ideas that students at international schools sometimes have difficulty grappling with.  It made me realise – that past the technical side, photography is such a personal expression and statement in life – I knew that before – but seeing it unfold before my eyes so easily with students that obviously have so many varied and different experiences and obviously have a lot to say was revelatory.

Being able to walk freely through the two local townships was another eye opener in itself – not so much because of the places themselves – I have obviously been to many for work – but the fact that literally 150m from my house is almost another world and existence so different from my own suburban one.  Where I live in Cape Town can be described as a micrcosm of the country as a whole – different communities living side by side but – on the whole – not really connecting with each other apart from the most perfunctory of contact.  It is such a shame and addressing it is fundamental to South Africa’s long-term prosperity – I’d even go as far as to say survival…

On a professional level, teaching the 18 year olds has been great in terms of making a breakthrough myself.  I had wanted to go into Hangberg – the local coloured community to do a long-term project there.  It had been hard for me to find ways to enter with cameras.  Unlike the black South African townships – such as the largest, Khayelitsha where I have ventured many times since I came to SA in 2009, always through local NGO’s, coloured communities – being slightly more affluent – do not get as much attention from NGO’s.  To be frank though the main problem is that coloured communities all over the Western Cape suffer from some of the most violent and lethal forms of gangsterism on the Continent fuelled in large part by an explosion of crystal meths use (or rather a dirty form known locally as ‘Tik’).  Recently, the army had to go in and restore some semblance of order in the main coloured community on Mitchells Plain.

While Hangberg is nowhere near as bad, it still suffers from the problem – and by all accounts it is getting worse. One of the boys I met while teaching who really took to the photography classes and understood what it was all about offered to accompany me as an assistant and I in return offered to firstly pay him and also train him further.  If it works out the teaching would have opened a big door for me professionally.

For the record – I love teaching photography in general– and teaching the 18 year olds from the townships has not only hopefully helped them in some small way – It has helped me.  I have found without fail that to be a better photographer you simply have to become a better, more focused and honest person. What better way to make a step towards this by teaching what I myself love so much. It is only when you are constructive and happy that you can realise your true expression in the art form.

This morn I received a phone call at 6.30am – I thought it was my girlfriend calling so I invariably answered and said ‘Hi sweets’ without even checking the number.  There was a pause.

‘Errr – Hi?’

‘Hi? – whose calling?’. I said realising rather embarrassed!

‘It’s Nomtha.  What time is photography classes today?’

‘Oh sorry Nomtha – you’re up early!  I’m afraid there are no more classes – you’ve entered the awards now.’

After a very brief moment’s reflection though – and maybe feeling the disappointment on the other end of the phone I added:

‘But I’ll talk to Lalela and try and arrange more.  You enjoyed them?’


‘Then let’s do it!’

And I meant it.  Look forward to doing it again some time soon…

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