Friday, 23 April 2010

Location Lighting Workshop's in South Africa

While Katherine and I were down in South Africa we decided to put on a location lighting workshop for local Pro and keen amateur photographers

In some ways it seems like Apartheid has not ended, with far too few international photographers not coming over here and doing workshops

It was held at Little Stream, Constantia and it was a great success, I cannot think of a more picturesque setting for a workshop, nor one with as many possibilities for great location work at different times of the day.

If only this location was just round the corner it would be a firm favourite of mine

It was the a cool place for the delegates to get to grips with one of my firm favourites, the rugged and powerful Elinchrom Ranger, in fact we had 4 of them to play with along with a couple of Elinchrom Octa soft boxes

The workshop was organised by Werner Stadler and Vicky Kumm, but really would not have been possible without the support of Kevin Singer and Orms

Special mentions then to the model Wilmie Lubbe who tolerated my snake jokes as I asked her to stand in the undergrowth, and Liz from Singer who happily went along with my endless requests

Not forgetting the caterers Ingrid and her team from 'Relish Food' who have set the bar rather high in terms of workshop catering, a tough act to follow

So enjoy some of the work of Chris Cloete that he shot on the day

Who knows, if I get stuck here for too much longer with the Volcanic ash cloud hanging over the UK, I may even do another one......

Stop Press!!!!!! Stop Press!!!!!! Stop Press!!!!!! Stop Press!!!!!!

Thanks to the Volcanic activity I'm running another in Pretoria and Cape Town

Pretoria on Friday April the 30th has has just 2 places left

The HD Dslr movie class is filling fast on Thursday April the 29th

Cape Town on the Wednesday 28th April has a few places left, once again at the delightful location of Little Stream you can book here

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

The final Assignment - To photograph Ajax Cape Town

When one embarks on such a project, the outcome is uncertain

What has characterized this project has been just how keen so many people have been to help

South Africa is the land of the possible

 An old friend of Werner's heard that we were running the class and managed to set up a visit to top South African football team Ajax Cape Town , some of who's players make up the South African World cup team

Where the class could photograph the team training and meet them afterwards

My experience with English premier clubs has not been the happiest and it was a welcome change to deal with a top level football club, which welcomed photographers and embraced the local youth with such genuine warmth.

So that was the photographic assignment of the day, they did pretty well I think you will agree, considering they just had the standard 18-55mm zoom lens

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Class assignment Day 3

Day 3 with the class was always going to be interesting, and I wanted to stretch them a little by encouraging them to consider what they were shooting

The assignment I set was 'what would you like to change about your community'

This led to a very wide interpretation of the brief, covering subjects such as poor housing, leaking pipes, slow rubbish collection and illegal electricity connections with all of the multi colored cable coming down from the pylons, yes it is illegal but what would you do if your dwelling had no electricity.......?  Just think of inconvenient it is when we have only a very brief power cut at home of work

Once again this is a very quick edit of the highlights

Please let the class and I know what you think? I have been reading out the encouraging comments at the start of each day and they make a big difference, to know that one's work is being seen and appreciated by the wider world is powerful stuff indeed.

Fourth and final day to follow, along with my overall thoughts

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Students Photos- day 2

On the second day I set the class an assignment

To photograph their friends and family

This is a very quick selection of what they came up with

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Gangs

On the first day as we were reviewing the photos shot yesterday I noticed that in nearly every frame of  young people in the community that they were making signs with their hands, often different signs. When I asked the class about this on the first day I just got some pretty vague answers, they did not seem to want to elaborate

Yesterday as we were reviewing photos, there was this frame of these rather cute looking very young kids making the hand gestures

When I asked this time the class became quite animated and told us that it was very sad that these children were making the sign associated with one of the 'numbers' gangs and told us a little at least about them at least

They told us how in their township with a simply massive unemployment rate of +/- 70 or 80 percent (there is no hard and fast data, simply the vast majority has no jobs) bored teenagers and young adults turn to crime as one said if you make it to 20 without going to jail it is a miracle

And when they are in prison they simply have to join a 'numbers' gang for their own protection or face violence or rape.

And of course the numbers 'gangs' thrive on the outside too, with many young children looking up to them as being the powerbase within the townships, which is why they make the signs of the gangs

When we started to expand the conversation some of the students spoke of how they have turned their backs on the gangs and are seeking a different path. At a conservative estimate I think about 40 percent of the class have been in a numbers gangs. And that is just the students who spoke of their previous membership.

We asked how dangerous it was at night one said 'it is a 1000 times more dangerous at night but it is always dangerous, more dangerous than you realise'

I recounted to the class of how Katherine Holley and I started to feel uneasy, in potential danger, a kind of fear that you cannot quite put your finger on, and how we turned back to the community centre.(On reflection two white people walking alone in the townships dripping in thousands of dollars of DSLRs is not very wise.)

One of the class said yes 'you got that feeling, but 15,000 people in this township get that feeling EVERY day'

Is it any wonder that the 'numbers' gangs thrive

Monday, 12 April 2010

Day One with the students in Overcome Heights

Day one with the class was daunting to say the least, but I need not have worried

They were engaged, involved and questioning

Out of the class of 12 only 6 had taken a photo before in their lives

Think of that, just for a moment.

Some 16 years after the end of Apartheid ,South Africa is still a land of great contrasts, with the gap between the haves and the have nots seemingly as great as ever

I will never forget the moment when they held the camera’s for the first time. 6 Canon 400D’s donated by a reader of this blog, which will remain here when I leave, under the stewardship of ‘True North’

It was a very moving moment to see the joy and excitement on the faces of youths who simply have never had an opportunity to express themselves in such a way before

The plan is that these youths and others will continue to document their community long after I have gone

Normally I start a class with getting everyone to set their camera’s on manual to get an understanding of the way a camera works.

I ran through some of the basics but it soon became clear that there was a real imperative to get them out taking pictures as soon as possible

What to expect? I really did not know

Quite frankly I was amazed with what they came back with in just under 2 hours, but I will let you and the wider world be the judge of that, and DO remember some of these kids have never held a camera in their lives before….

So what will today bring? Who knows? But it will be a special day when they get to see their work on my laptop today. There will be more pictures too

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A Great Journey, a great adventure, an uncertain outcome

Readers of this blog will be aware of my photojournalistic roots, and how a cause is never far from my heart or soul

Between Christmas and New Year I was contacted by Werner Stadler of a South African NGO called  'True North'

The NGO works in the townships of Vrygrond Overcome Heights, just outside of Cape Town, helping vulnerable children and their families, in the areas of education and basic needs

There is a high level of substance abuse and addiction (alcohol and crystal meth) and unemployment of around 70 percent

Werner contacted me enquiring if I could send one of my 'Location Lighting' DVD's to show the youth in the community

This of course would have been a pleasure, but I saw a phone number on the bottom of the email and decided to call it...........

I said 'yes' I would love to send as many out as he wanted, free of charge, but something made me offer to come over and do a week long workshop with some of the youths in one of the most challenged areas of this growing nation

And that my friends is why I find myself sitting in Werner's house in South Africa, staying with him and his family

It is as the title says, quite an adventure, as at 9am local time on Wednesday morning I will be taking a class of 12 local youths and teaching them basic photography, so they can document the plight of their local community on a day to day basis.

I saw Overcome Heights for the first time today, spare a  thought my friends as you go to sleep tonight, half the homes have no electricity.

What at the outset seemed like an interesting experiment now seems like a mountain to climb

I truthfully have no idea of the outcome of this ambitious project but I will be giving it my best shot

Keep an eye out for many regular updates