Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Township Project - Closing thoughts

Taking on this project back in December was not such a big deal, really

It seemed so far away, and at times it came close to failure

But after a while it became a reality, and I started to get my head round how to make it work

When Werner Stadler of  'True North' took Katherine Holley and I to the township the day before the class began, it fitted with my previous experiences of South African townships of some 20 years ago. I noted to myself how little they had changed in that time despite the end of Apartheid, living conditions seem to be pretty much the same.

As we drove down one of the side streets one of the community, Beryl who knew Werner ran up to our vehicle holding a very small undernourished baby called 'Moonface'

'Moonface' was in a very sorry state, she had a cleft palate, and thought to be a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which affects the central nervous system, she was taking her for an operation in the week.

To say this moved me would be an understatement and more to the point it filled me with doubt regarding the photography tutoring class

How relevant could such a class be in a community facing a myriad of issues, of such gravity and depth?

I have never felt so nervous at the start of a class

When I started to engage with the class my nerves passed

And after most of this week with them I feel that the class has been very important and of real value to all of the participants.

Providing hope and a focus to youths who have been given no opportunity to shine at all

When given a chance to express themselves every pupil in the class seized it, as you will have seen from the photographs

In fact they may get their own show in London soon, fingers crossed

I believe that the class has the potential to an enduring positive force in their lives (Mine too for that matter)

I believe the cameras will provide the students and the wider community a voice which they have not previously had, and a chance that people may at least be more aware of the challenges they face in their daily lives

Yes, we will be leaving behind 6 Canon 400D's and 6 Manfrotto tripods under the stewardship of 'True North' and we do hope to return next year to run another class

 Liz  of Singer photographic has already volunteered to go along and take a class, this really is a brilliant start.

What will make this project a success is more South African going in to mentor and encourage them on a regular basis, it really is not difficult, in fact it is a joy not to mention an education, please consider this guys?

I cannot believe how easy it was to make this whole thing happen, I think perhaps we find more reasons why we cannot do things than why we can.

When the final class finished there were massive hugs and smiles

Here is the class at Ajax Cape Town

One of the class said 'We are your friends now, do not forget us'

These youngsters will not be forgotten by me, far from it, they will be an enduring inspiration in my daily life, no matter where it may take me

Life is so short, just do something ANYTHING, no matter how small, and make a difference


drooze said...

This is awesome Drew. This makes me want to do something for others as you have. I shoot for my church a lot and have proposed doing portraits for families that cannot afford it (ala Jeremy Cowart). I wonder if we cannot get some donors and teach disadvantaged kids photography. Thanks for the inspiration.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Drooze

Go for it mate!

You have a good idea there

Let me know how it goes/



Justin Sutcliffe said...

Really great to read this and see what you collectively accomplished in such a short time. Passing on that positive mental attitude is a very important contribution.

Although you make a good point about all the serious challenges that your students face in everyday life, photography might be able to serve as an escape, a respite and a voice that carries beyond their surroundings.

To have shown them how to start is a great thing.

You need volunteers at any point? sign me up!

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Justin

Really great to hear from you

You would be most welcome to come down and spend some time with the guys here.

They need as much support and mentoring as possible, so please anyone else get in touch and lets keep this momentum going



Peter said...

Drew, this has been an amazing series, I'd love to be involved with this project. I'll email you with my details and look forward to finding out more.


Drew Gardner said...

Dear Peter

Thank you so much for you kind offer of help,I will pass your details along to 'True North' and see what you guys can do together.

It is all about deeds, not words.

And you are clearly a man who believes this too

Thank you so very much


Andy said...

Hi Drew. Andrea here (worked for GPP2009)! I just happened to pop into your blog to see what you are up to, only to find you here on South African soil! I have since left Dubai and moved home. I see that the flight ban has been lifted and you are probably on your way. However, if you ever fancy a similar adventure in Johannesburg now or in the future you are most welcome to stay with us. Can you be tempted? Great to see what you are doing in Cape Town!!

Wern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drew Gardner said...

Hi Andy

Thank you for your comment and your very kind offer

Still stranded in Cape Town but home soon I think

I have another couple of workshops planned in Pretoria before I leave

Maybe see you before I leave



Mike Nelson Pedde said...

Drew, you, those involved with you and all of your students deserve a round of applause!


Anonymous said...

I like the work you´ve done with this people. I´m specially interested in what you say about asking them to use the camera in Manual mode first for them in orther to be able to understand the basics of photography, and then reallysing that it was urgent for them to go out and just shoot. I´m working in a project not quite like the same but very similar and very much like to know how you finally aproached the teaching part of photography. The work i´m starting is at imaginandotemixco.wordpress.com it´s in spanish but maybe you can get the idea.


Rodolfo Candelas

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Rodolfo

Thank you for the comment, sorry for my slow reply

It is a difficult balancing act, teaching photography (apertures shutter speeds etc)

I did start down quite a technical route and I felt the class start to slip away from me

At that point I made a decision to get them shooting

I think it was the right thing to do but would like to have built more on the technical side

That is now happening via the mentoring side of the project

Lets see what happens?

I had a look at your site, i get it

Just wish I understood more Spanish

Keep me updated



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your reply Drew.

This informatio is really usefull for me, because I also think that the balance between technic and practice has to be found in order to not loose the attention of the group.

I´m going to make a translation of my site so more people can undestand it, and I´ll keep youy posted.

Thanks again.



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