Reframing Reality in Photography Class at SPI

Photography Class4

We have just wrapped up our first semester of Photography class here at the center!

For the past 10 weeks we have been running a weekly class focused on not only the mechanics of cameras but also the philosophy of taking photos. In the current social media environment we are constantly inundated with hundreds of photographs every day. The unfortunate side effect of this accessibility combined with how easy it is to whip out a phone and snap a picture is that each photo means a little less. Our class was dedicated to using techniques and thoughtfulness in order to create meaningful images.

The curriculum was roughly based on The Viewfinder Project, an American based program promoting positivity through photography. For example, in our first class entitled “What is Ugly?” we asked the students to go out into the neighborhood to capture photographs of things that they found ugly; traffic, dog waste, dead trees, etc. Then in the next class we told them to go into the same area and document things they found beautiful and compared the photographs.

The message being that beauty and ugliness surround all of us on a daily basis and it is what we choose to focus on that shapes our worldview. The students found the lessons (and the photos that they took) full of meaning:

The camera let’s us explore. There are many simple things in this life but those simple things have a lot of meaning. This life became sad when we became desperate about our future, and we couldn’t achieve everything we wanted to achieve. But, if I look at the bright side of everything in this life, then I can make this life happy. If I find something sad, I try to see the happy thing inside of this sad thing.Dalal, 16, Syria
When you want to take a beautiful photograph, you have to change your perspective – you can’t take every picture from chest height, you have to move the camera – By changing my perspective I can also make the world happy to me.Molham, 15, Palestine

We continued our class with the same mindset but shifted our focus to the physical mechanics of the cameras. We are proud to say that after ten weeks we have changed our cameras from shooting in automatic mode to fully manual! Now, our plan is to continue to develop our curriculum and start the next semester of class this Spring with both children and adults from the center.

Our hope is that time spent looking through the lens will train the students to not only take better pictures but will also help them reframe the good and bad aspects of their lives.

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Written By

Simon Fox


Organisation Photographer and Videographer - My name is Simon Fox and I am a native Seattleite and a third generation photographer, my grandfather being one of the early filmmakers for Disney's nature documentaries. I grew up surrounded by cameras and am currently making my way in the world as a freelance video journalist. Living in Istanbul I have met many incredible people but nothing compared to the community I have found at an NGO here in the city that helps displaced people, mainly from Syria and Iraq, continue their lives. They are my friends, brothers, sisters, teammates, teachers, and as of recently, my students. Using photography as the medium, for the last three months I have been teaching a group of teens basic photography combined with positive philosophy.

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