Conference sneak preview

Benin through young digital eyes

eLearning Africa 2012 will play host to an innovative series of children’s digital photography workshops. Terry Morris, one of the UK’s top celebrity photographers, and Adam Salkeld, an international media executive, will be working with groups of children and teenagers from Benin to create a portfolio of digital images of impressions of the conference as well as of Benin and its people.

Morris and Salkeld have adopted artist Pablo Picasso’s maxim: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” They have developed the workshop concept to provide technical and creative tuition for the young participants, but most of all to give them space, support and the freedom to express themselves. The workshops focus on developing the students’ visual sense and also deliver benefits in confidence-raising, ICT knowledge and creative learning.

The project was conceived in 2011 and piloted earlier this year in Morocco as part of the Shore to Shore cultural exchange initiative from UK-based educational NGO REEP. In Morocco, Morris and Salkeld worked with a group of disadvantaged children from the coastal town of Essaouira giving them professional coaching and support to help them create their own visual impressions of their lives and environment. Each child was given a simple Nikon digital camera to use, and after some basic instruction, each was given a range of photo assignments around the town.

The results were encouraging. The children picked up the technical side of the cameras almost instantly and from the very beginning showed a natural visual flair.  Morris says, “These kids had never picked up a camera before, but some of the pictures they came back with were amazing. I would be proud to call them my own.”

Picture this: Images from the Morocco workshops

The project lasted three days, and over that time the children became much more confident in expressing themselves through their photography. Salkeld says: “I was continually impressed by the children’s energy and enthusiasm to learn. They had an innate creativity which was unlocked by the process of taking photographs. It was great to watch the effort they made to review and then improve their work. Perhaps, best of all was observing how peer-to-peer learning took over as the children shared inspirations and techniques.”

Morris adds: “At the heart of our work is the idea that children and young people often have the freshest vision when it comes to looking at the world. Our job is to help them achieve it.”  The Benin workshops will follow the same pattern. The young Beninese participants will be set assignments both at the conference venue and out and about in Cotonou. Salkeld says, “We are really looking forward to working with the young people in all the visual richness that Benin offers. I am expecting the results to be stunning.”

Conference delegates will be able to hear more about the project and see the results of the workshops at a session (41 TYL) in the afternoon on Friday, July 25th chaired by Adam Salkeld and Terry Morris. The session will also include a certificate ceremony for the workshop participants.

Morris adds, “Don’t be surprised if you are photographed at the conference by a team of enthusiastic young paparazzi! Most likely, they will be one of our workshop groups!”

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