Participative Photography

“I like taking my own photo to see what I look like and so that others can see me”. That is the most common response I’d hear when I asked 5th and 6th grade students in Bena Jema School participating in the photography workshop we ran in May why they’d like to learn to take photographs.

“Participatory photography is a cultural and creative activity that promotes photography amongst populations that have limited ways of representing themselves and whose voices are not often in the heard in the very debates that affect them.”

                 Almundena Caso, Lascientovolando

We approached photography from a community perspective. We made groups of five pupils, each group with one camera between them that they would share. Given that the children have such a good grasp of communal property, this was really easy. What set this project apart from other workshops is that there was no individual ownership of the images as such, except in the case of self-portraits. Normally, even if students might share a camera, the individual photographer is recognised and each work is presented individually, but this wasn’t the case in this project:  here, the photos taken belonged to all of the group’s members.

We use street photography as a tool through which children can come to recognise their own social environment. They explored every corner of their community, taking photos of whatever they were drawn to, and once they had the visual material, we split up the photos into ones that we would edit and others that could be used as for the purposes of analysis and study of their culture.

From the first group of photos that we edited, we have the following images.  From drawings and creativity emerged new imagined spaces, places where they would like to live, creating new realities and giving them different socio-political alternatives to those that they currently have.

The second group of photos served as a starting point to study the children’s culture, allowing them to analyse their customs, habits and rituals together. We considered these elements at length and shared our experiences, learning to value what we have and to continue to progress, incorporating all of what we have learned.

As our project developed, it was interesting to see how the objective of the photos taken changed. The selfies they’d take at the beginning gave way to portraits bearing a message.  Above all, it was great to discover through their images how they had documented the workshop itself.

As our project developed, it was interesting to see how the objective of the photos taken changed. The selfies they’d take at the beginning gave way to portraits bearing a message.  Above all, it was great to discover through their images how they had documented the workshop itself.

All the photos were taken by 5th and 6th grade pupils. Bena Jema School, Pucallpa, May 2016.

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