Everytime when there is a new place to do the Kamerakidz-Project, we see, what might be the best way to organise it. Which children will take photos, how will I teach them, how will we talk together, how much time do we spent when together etc.
The monastic school is up on the mountain. There are 18 boys, aged 7 to 15. They have only one classroom and get lessons in all ordinary subjects and special buddhist knowledge. We decided that we should manage somehow to have all boys participate as they live very close together and it wouldn’t be fair to have out- and insiders. As I didn’t want to disturb much the school-time, we did like this:
The first day I’ve got the whole day to introduce myself, the project and the cameras. Only one of them had a camera in his hands before. Then we made a system that every boy would get a good chance to have a camera 2-3 times from afternoon to next morning. I collected the cameras, downloaded the photos and edited them while the boys were doing their ordinary school-lessons. After school we had a short time talking about the photography and then the cameras went to the next boys.
I told them to take photos of all aspects of their life so that we can make a book to explain the people elsewhere about the life of a monkboy in Sikkim. In the lunchbreak and at times we tried to talk a bit. But their english was not really good. And both of us were shy, me and the little monks. But from day to day we felt more comfortable with each other.
They have a very limited surrounding: the schoolcumhostel-complex, the monastery (inside photography is not allowed) and little bit of the mountainjungle around. They had good fun in taking photos of each other. I gave only little more ideas. On sunday some of the boys went home and took cameras with them to take photos from the village and their families. But we had a little bad luck: it was raining a lot and no-one enthusiastic to walk around with the camera.
As it were 18 boys and we only had the small screen from my laptop, watching photos was not so easy although they liked it a lot. So in their lunchbreak usually some would come over to have an extra look.
For me it was again a very new experience. For one to have so many children in the class whose daily life is only in such a small surrounding. I had big difficulties to learn their names which are as similar as their dark red robes. But especially through their photos the individuals became more shape and I was enthusiastic to see their different ways of taking photos. But also it was “strange” that it was quite sure that photography was not really something to learn for a monk. But we thought a good tool to express the story.
With other children it was always obvious that they took photos to tell about their daily life, but also the hope to earn little money with that. In this monastic school it is a little different as 90% of the income goes to the hostel which lives from (not enough) donations and just very little to the individual boys. So they do all the effort to invite more people to learn about buddhism in Sikkim as well as the special situation of a boymonk, but also to a) get direct money for better food, repairing works etc. and b) attract more people to come by and give directly some donations.