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Hello Friday, August 10
Posted 3:11AM on Monday, August 13, 2007 Pacific Time
After having worked for several days in small groups developing deeper, more focused stories, we reunited the entire group on Day 5 to do a work review. As we have had significant post-production to do at the end of each day of shooting -- downloading, editing, web updating, equipment maintenance -- we have simply been left too exhausted, each evening, to also make prints for the kids. Our solution, while imperfect, was to load our Macintosh laptops with an image edit and to have Joanne walk around the group sharing images, while Russell discussed them with the kids, reinforcing basic concepts in photography and visual storytelling. Better to hold pictures in your hand (which they will be able to do at the end of next week). Better yet, to have the time and resources for the kids to participate in the edit. But how extraordinary, nonetheless, to be able to use technology to share work in this way. We were also able to show the kids the website and to read the comments posted by people from around the world about their work. The pride reflected in their faces was indescribable. Thanks to each of you who took the time to look at their photos and share your thoughts.
When we did the work share we talked with the children a bit about the emerging visual story. Do your photos, taken together, tell a story that reads true to you? What is missing? What would you enlarge upon? This stimulated an interesting dialogue, which I am paraphrasing here. One of the teens talked about the fact that these images are not, in any form, a fair representation of teen life in Maputo, as they represent only the lives of children living on their own in the "suburbs" (generally more impovrished areas of the city). She talked about the importance of also showing children in stable families with economic resources, education, and access to opportunities. As a counter–point, one of her peers noted that, while it is true that these photos do not represent the whole, they are a reflection of an important part -- children orphaned because of AIDS -- and that this part is the intention of this particular project. Yet another said that she thought the photos were "60 percent there" but that she wanted to show more joy.
I am really struck by how collaborative a process this work is. It is not honest to say that these are the children's stories, alone, as they work so closely with their mentors, whose job as professional photographers is to help them focus their shooting, point out extraordinary light, or suggest picture opportunities. To those of us who are American, everything we see is new. What is extraordinary to us is absolutely ordinary to the children. Perhaps it is this collaboration that makes the work so powerful: the children with their intimate knowledge of their own lives; the photographers —- whether those of us from the United States or our Mozambican partners —- looking in as outsiders with well-trained eyes, seeing things that the children may not notice, making inquires about what we see that may allow the kids to reflect on their lives in new ways. While some might think that the eyes and involvement of "outsiders" intrude upon the children's stories, I think that it is this very interaction that makes the images and story unique.
Our work this week has left me thinking quite a bit about the importance of perspective in a story and brings to mind the parable about the blind men and the elephant: multiple perspectives make the whole; no one point of view is the truth.
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