Teaching Photography to Teenagers
Has anyone got any advice?
I'm going to be doing a couple of sessions with a group of teens next week. Any suggestions? The first session is going to be on taking pictures so I'll mostly talk about ideas, inspiration, thoughts etc. The next session will be on printing so I will of course be more technical then.
I'd welcome any tips from anyone who has done this kind of thing before.
Don't take any degree of photographic knowledge for granted. I remember what a revelation it was when I was taught the relationship between f-stops and shutter speeds and how they can be manipulated to to keep exposure constant while affecting DOF and the "freezing of action." I thought it the coolest thing in the world at that moment and felt inspired to explore the possibilities immediately.
I guess what I'm saying is, focus on inspiration, vision, etc... is fine and all that, but I wouldn't ignore the basics in the first session. They, too, can be inspirational.
I have no real experience there but I have a suggestion.
When you start printing, have a pre-tested negative all ready to go. Every long-time photographer that I have ever met speaks fondly of the magical moment when they saw their first image appear in the developing tray as if it were yesterday. Make that first print as dramatic as possible and you are bound to hook some of them.
After that you can teach them about test strips and chem mixing and the other, less sexy aspects of the darkroom.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
Give them some film and tell them to photograph what they see, you'll be surprised at the results you get back. It may be wise to give them a little help on how to use the camera meter to get in the ball park with exposure. Don't bore them with fstops etc at this stage, in my experience many youngsters find that a big turn off at the early stages. Encourage them to experiment and some of them will come up with some wacky images and that helps get them more interested for they are doing their own thing. Once they are hooked they'll come to you to find out what they need to know. If your experience in this is anything like mine you're in for a great time and I'd predict a few excellent and probably very different images from what you imagined.
I agree with Les! All that 'techie' stuff just sounds like "yada, yada, yada" (or the English equivalent thereof) to kids. I have seen the photos of teens in the High School where I used to take my B&W photo class through the Jr. College. These kids have an
eye that will astound you! Basic understanding of light, shadow and "seeing" in black & white will be most helpful. I'd have them suggest themes...and maybe coach them on how to approach those subjects (like stopping action, or blurring it).
Maybe once you finish with them, have them post, or post for them to one of the galleries & let us know so we can comment on their work! I think we'd all like to give them some help & perhaps win a few young analog advocates! Maybe Sean could set up a temporary student gallery for you. I think they'd get a kick of having people from all over the world comment on their photos!
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Guess that shows how weird I am, LOL.
I'd taken plenty of pictures before I took that short photo course, guided by nothing but intuition and instinct -- not sure another few rolls shot the same way would have done much for me. It was the news that you could actually CONTROL what a photo looked like that made the course a revelation to me and that I found so exciting.
Double Les's thoughts, we do a workshop for teens every summer.It is a week long , 4 hours a day session. So, Keep it simple. They will ask what they need to know and will get to where you wanted to go. That is not to say that you don't cover the basics but give them just enough understanding about how to use the camera and send them out to make pictures. Then all that "nuts and bolts" will begin to make more sense.
One thing that was great fun (and i had serious questions about) was to do "photo grams". This was a lead in to printing negatives. It gives them the opportunity to handle the equipment, use the process etc. I was blown away with their results. I was also surprised that they would enjoy something so simple. Some wanted to know what would happen if they put their "chemical hands" on the paper; so my response was go find out. THey began to do chemical painting and it was a wonder.
Another really great experience was to mount, frame and have a mini show of their work at the end of the week. While we mounted, spotted, framed, etc, the gallery director hung each students work along with a proper name card in the gallery area. We had ask the parents to come for cookies and punch at the end of the day and surprised them with a photo exhibit. It was all very professional and folks loved it.
One parent even comment "my gosh these photos have contrast". However, more important every one had a great time and wanted to go out and take more pictures. they all were so proud, even if they didn't act like it (remember these are teenagers); however, the parents couldn't believe their children produced these images.
How many really understood fstops and shutters speeds? Who knows? How many really grasped the fine points to printing. Probably none, but they had fun, got excited about taking and making pictures. Wanted to continue having that experience.
Plant the seed; who knows what will happen! The reality is you may never know
In all seriousness, for anyone who gets involved in trying to teach something that they feel passionately about (and especially to youngsters), I highly recommend that you get a copy of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" and read it thoroughly. It is really easy to read and actually rather brief; you can finish it in an hour or so. And incidently, one of the lessons contained in that classic would be pretty much the same as what Les said.
From a different aspect, have an area set up for food (munchies) The food should stay just in that area. Have some of their style music playing in the darkroom. Make the environment a bit more friendly to them, and they will be more recpetive to your teaching. Beyond that keep it simple and teach more as they ask more.
"Johnathan Livingston Seagull" is a very well thumbed book in my collection, that's good advice you pass on.