After two previous visits of the Secpad-School in 2009 and 2010 with only my one “second-camera” and some sort of tests, in which I gave the camera to the children and tried some essay-writing with them (first very promising results, second more disappointing and difficult), I came in 2011 in August for a 2,5 weeks visit with a couple of donated cameras. I stayed in the guesthouse of the hostel. In the morning I used to do some teaching – english and sometimes some special topics I thought to be useful for getting material for a book or so.
In the afternoon I had a special photo-class of 6 hostelchildren, with whom I talked about photography, explained the cameras to them and tried to let them find out the difference between a photo they consider as good and another as not so good. I gave them small digital cameras and they used them heavily each day, returning them the next day with around 100-150 photos each. In Zanskar nearly no family has a camera, so it was a big pleasure to use something they just saw in the hands of tourists. And they took their chance. 1.000s of photos of smiling friends, posing as soldiers in the rare green parts of the hostel-compound. First I thought I should “discipline” them, but my second thought was, that photography should always be something fun to do and so I let them go on. And they started becoming inventive of producing a bigger variety of funny poses and faces and constellations.
But besides they became eager to take photos which I thought as good photos, making remarks, when checking the pictures the next day. They tried to imitate what I was highlighting, where I pointed the camera myself, when we were at trips and being inventive to make a special photo.
Besides I was giving an extra-camera to class 8, each day to another child, so that I could have some more photos from the daily life in houses and on fields. I just told them which kind of photos I wanted and each day I was suprised about the good quality of the results. I never taught them anything as I had the feeling that we could go on like this as I was getting, what I was looking for. It seemd that the children had a sort of natural feeling for pictures, which is quite surprising as in their world there aren’t many – no newspapers, no magazines, no advertisments on walls, more drawings then photos in their schoolbooks.
I always fixed the settings in the cameras (200 iso and automatic flash), but the children were usually enthusiastic discovering every possible changes and so I got back sometimes movies, 1600 iso and technical bad photos. I did all editing myself as I felt that in this limited time it would be too much to teach that, too. And the children were really much more fond of taking photos then thinking too much about them.
In the beginning some were quite shy with me as their english was not very well and I have a heavy german accent, but especially after some trips we did together, our relationship became more relaxed. Sometimes I was a little impatient, when I had after 10 days again a memory card full of “soldier photos”, but I tried to slow down and realise, that I already reached a lot. Next year we are continuing as there are so many aspects of zanskari life not documented yet.
The last thing I feel important to mention is, that all photos you find on this blogwebsite are taken by the children except some “making-of’s”, which I have taken. You’ll find the name of the photographer below the photos (we have two Stanzin Kunzals, one is a boy and one a girl, both from class 8). And all photos are full size, means that I didn’t cut anything (except sometimes rotating to make the horizon straight) – a principle which I apply to my own photos, too.