By Sarah Shaw
This past month, my Peace Corps neighbor, Francis Ramos, and I led two photo camps at our sites, encouraging groups of 15 motivated students to reflect on two important themes: family roots and the meaning of hope. Francis and I both live north of Cartagena; she lives in Manzanillo del Mar, a tranquil pueblo of 500 people, and I live in La Boquilla, a corregimiento of 10,000 where the picos are pumping all day and night.
The photography curriculum and cameras–simple Canon point-and-shoots–were originally donated to Alli Spring from the San Diego-based organization “Outside the Lens.” Now that she’s about to COS, she has kindly given us the cameras to continue leading the projects.
On the first day of the camp, we talked about elements of design, composition and visual thinking skills. After three PowerPoint presentations, filled with images that sparked interesting discussions, the students embarked on a photo scavenger hunt. They practiced utilizing the elements of design, such as using the rule of thirds, finding repetition, playing with color and capturing movement, as well as photographing from various points of view (e.g., bird’s eye, worm’s eye, and close-up). As an art teacher, this was one of my favorite parts of the project. The students were able to learn some photography skills, as well as exercise their creative and critical thinking skills, which doesn’t happen often in their regular classes.
Here are some of my favorite shots from the scavenger hunt:
The next day, the students explored their family roots with the project called “Aquí Estoy.” They worked in pairs to photograph each other in their homes and write a poem about their origins. The poem had a set structure, which encouraged the students to write about their family origins from the past, present and future. At one point, Francis overheard two of my students arguing about one of the lines of the poem that prompted, “description of how you got here.”
According to Francis’ retelling of the story (in English) they said:
Livinson: What does this mean, how did I get here?
María Isabel: How did you get to La Boquilla after you were born?
Livinson: I was born on my kitchen floor, just like all my brothers.
María Isabel: No, you were born in Cartagena.
Livinson: You’re calling my mom a liar? You didn’t have me!
You’ll hear some more great lines by checking out these videos that combine the students’ photos with clips from their poems:
On the third day, in La Boquilla, the students brainstormed and photographed their own representation of “hope.” They also wrote an acrostic poem, using the word esperanza. This project was a bit more abstract, but several students had great ideas.
Francis and I printed the photos in downtown Cartagena, and on the last day, the students glued their photos and poems on colored paper.
These projects, conducted entirely in Spanish, allowed students to use digital media and writing to think critically about important topics in their lives. The students loved seeing their photos, and they pretended to be embarrassed when I told them I would be making a video and posting it on Youtube. One of my students refused to record his poem on the “Aquí Estoy” project day, but he approached me on the last day and whispered, “Sarah, I’m ready to record my poem, but we have to do it in the other room.”
Now that’s success.
*If you’re interested in collaborating on an “Outside the Lens” photo project with a group of students at your school, please contact Sarah Shaw (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Francis Ramos (email@example.com) for more details.