Participants of eLearning Africa 2012 in Cotonou will have noticed enthusiastic groups of children bearing cameras and photographing all around them. These young paparazzi were taking part in an innovative digital photo workshop as part of the conference activities.
The workshops were led by Terry Morris, an international celebrity photographer, and Adam Salkeld, a UK- and Africa-based media executive and member of the eLearning Africa Advisory Committee. The premise of the workshops was simple – to give groups of schoolchildren from Cotonou a digital camera each, some basic instruction and then the space, encouragement and support to express themselves.
Each child took part in two half-day workshops. Terry Morris says: “Right from the start they were carried along on a wave of enthusiasm. We hardly had to use any instruction. Once they had the cameras in their hands they were away and taught themselves and each other.”
The groups were allowed free reign around the conference and then they were taken to locations around Cotonou that offered strong visual opportunities.
Adam Salkeld comments: “We took the groups to the Cotonou fishing port and market, the beach and a derelict nightclub. We wanted to provide them with a variety of interesting photographic locations. The rest was up to them.”
Adam and Terry presented some of the childrens’ work at their conference session and encouraged delegates to suggest ways of developing the project. Adam Salkeld says: “We had an enthusiastic discussion and lots of great suggestions from conference participants, many of which we are keen to follow up on. We also had a fascinating conversation about our project with keynote speaker Professor Sugata Mitra – he suggested we be even more ‘hands off’ and simply present the children with the cameras in boxes and let them work out what to do with them. A very interesting idea.”
All the children who took part in the workshops also attended the session which concluded with a certificate presentation for the young photographers. Terry Morris says: “As the workshops had just concluded, we only showed a small selection of the children’s work. Here are some more of their images, I hope News Portal readers are as impressed with the pictures as we were.”
The photo workshops were developed as part of the Shore to Shore project run by the British charitable foundation REEP. So far workshops have been conducted in Morocco and Benin, with another planned for the UK this summer.
Photos ©Terry Morris