On 31-July-2010, Kenny Loh Photography conducted the first of a series of free workshops for students between the ages of 13 – 17 years at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan USJ 12 in Petaling Jaya. SMK USJ 12 is the first of a planned series of 12 free workshops for schools around Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan.
I’ve always been interested in teaching and what better way to start than to teach a roomful of students. I also knew that starting the project without corporate sponsorship would accelerate the pace at which I could get started. After all, it is about the kids.
Having had the benefit of studying photography formally in the US, I wanted to assist in igniting the talent that I knew existed in many of our kids. I remember my own nephew when he was just 9. I had lent him my camera during our family reunion dinner and he surprised me with the images he captured. I guess the fact that he is a little shorter than adults and trying to balance the camera and flash made his mobility a little awkward but he still came away with some pretty interesting angles.
From then on, I began to develop an interest in how kids perceive the world and their vision of it.
I must thank Ms Shirley Tan and Ms Evelyn Cham; teachers at SMK USJ 12 who had organized the workshop along with ex-student, Shaun Tan. A good friend of mine, Ken Chen, who owns the camera shop, Camzone at Jaya 33 in Petaling Jaya was kind enough to donate prizes for the students along with Click Magazine who donated magazines.
Everyone had a lot of fun during the workshop. We started off with a brief introduction to my professional work, followed by a talk on some basis pointers on photography.
I knew I would need to tailor the workshop for students of varying skill levels in photography. Some were just beginning while others were quite advanced. Out of the 28 students who attended, 21 were girls. Certainly a lot different from my school days when photography was mainly the hobby of boys. I’m not surprised that camera advertisements usually feature handsome movie stars these days! All manners of camera gear were in evidence. Although I did not see any camera phones, there were certainly a fair number of DSLRs and compact cameras.
After giving them a few pointers on photography, I set them loose on the school premises. The theme was ‘My School’. I wanted them to capture an image that would signify what their school meant to them. However, I knew that I would need to be very ‘lenient’ as far as how much they would follow the theme. It was not important though. I just wanted to give them a very loose direction as I knew I would be spending time with them as they worked on their images.
I don’t believe that equipment makes the photographer and it is something I want to instill in budding photographers. Equipment is an aid to good photography and it helps if you have a camera that goes from 0 – 60 in 1 sec but seriously, if you don’t have a good eye, you’re going to be taking perfectly exposed, forgettable photographs!
On another level, I did not want to my students to be discouraged right from the start. I wanted them to believe that whatever camera they had in their hands would be able to serve them well in the workshop. In the past, I’ve seen kids being embarrassed to bring out their camera in the presence of their friends who are equipped with expensive DSLRs.
I had divided the students into 6 groups of 5 students each. The groups were the Nikon DSLR, Canon DSLR, compact camera and other branded DSLR group. I was not promoting any brands but I knew that Nikon and Canon have their own unique way of setting functions. Later on during the workshop, it would be easier for me to guide the students on utilizing their cameras well. This grouping will also allow me to work with students whose photography skills were at the same approximate level. After all, I reasoned that someone who owns a DSLR would most likely have slightly more experience than a person using a compact camera.
It was a pleasure to work with the students as they didn’t have preconceived ideas about what photography should be. They were just there to learn. At least that’s the impression I had
I observed that the way the girls and boys went about their photography to be very much different. The girls were trying out all kinds of angles and were really thinking outside of the box. The boys were a little more caught up in their equipment but as soon as they got over that, they were fine. What was more evident was that students with compact cameras did not have so many buttons and dials to adjust and they just got down to trying to explore and getting the best angles possible.
Initially, the students were in their assigned groups, attacking all and sundry at school with their cameras. Subjects included other students who were having their extra-curricular activities like the scouts, martial arts students and whatever poor teacher who happened to come across their way!
As the workshop progressed, I was able to guide them on getting the correct exposure, exploring angles, some basic lighting principles and so on. The students who remained in the shade were asked politely to start exploring the school grounds for images.
After 2 hours of practical photography, we broke for lunch. I followed this up with an editing session whereby the students chose their best image for submission in an informal contest. Camzone (Jaya 33, Petaling Jaya) sponsored prizes for the top 3 students.
*Please note these photographs remain the copyright of the students.
The plan is to select a few students from each school (in the series of workshops) for a workshop outside of the school environment in January 2011.
Seeing the students at work on their photography and their enthusiasm reminded me of my school days and subsequently college when I often worked late into the night developing my own film and prints. In a way, I’ve come away from this workshop feeling even more convicted that photography should be a hobby enjoyed by all and that elitism (my telephoto lens is longer than yours or my super duper camera can photograph though walls) has no place in it! The pleasure of creating images with anything that even remotely functions as a camera is a concept I will bring to all of my future workshops.
I trust you will enjoy the following images but please be reminded that the copyright belongs to the individual students.