The photography class I am teaching at the Girl Hub is now in its third week, and I feel like we are really starting to tap into something in each girl. There is nothing as exciting as when an image comes up on the screen that they have made, and it speaks to me, and I see that they are beginning to find their voice and enjoying the journey of seeing what a photograph can be.
We had to get through some of the technical stuff this past week and since I remember it was hard to understand exposure, shutter speed, and aperture when I was learning it in my own language, I know it would not be easy material for them. My amazing friend and translator Dida has helped a lot but there have been times that there is simply no corresponding word in Kinyarwanda, so we just try to find a creative way to explain things, and I do a lot of diagrams and drawings as well.
Yesterday I tried one more way to explain the relationship between these important photographic elements. I drew a diagram on the board illustrating water (for the light) coming out of faucet, and how if the water is coming out through a small hole, you have to leave the faucet on longer (longer shutter speed) to get the same amount of water than if you had a big hold (aperture) in the faucet. My drawings leave a lot to be desired, but all of a sudden I got these wide eyes, smiles, and nods, as it was starting to make sense to them. Which is good, because we have more fun stuff to move onto.
Tomorrow I will be teaching them how to use studio lights, with the help of Martin, a Ugandan photographer working for the Girl Hub. I paired them up to take portraits of each, and we spent much of yesterday looking at portraiture and talking about it. It’s really fun to show them portraits ranging from Mary Ellen Mark, to Richard Avedon and see what they think of them. The girls are truly a blank canvas when it comes to the visual arts, having seen very little photography or other contemporary art, especially given that Rwanda has never been a country that focused on art. That is starting to change now, and we are hoping these girls will be part of the artistic growth of this younger generation.
The younger girls who are around 14, are more playful about it all, and tend to giggle a lot in class, which brings a real joyfulness to our learning. Whereas the older girls who are 20 and 21 seem to be looking at this as a valuable skill and possible career, because they are at the point of needing opportunities in order to be able to achieve their goals of a better life for themselves and their families.
Next week we move into doing a mock assignment for the magazine, which will be really exciting because we want these girls to be able to shoot the content for Ni Nyampinga, so that along with the girls who are already writing for the magazine, they can help make it truly a publication that is by girls and for girls.