In order to sum up the title of this entry, I am going to briefly recount a conversation from the end of my very first photography session that took place last Thursday in a large, empty, burned out room around a very long meeting table. At one of end of this table sat four expectant teenage girls and myself.

“Right,” I said, “Based on the photographs we’ve just looked at and discussed, could you write up on the wall for me what we need to think about before we take a photograph.” I handed the pen to Patty and waited. Silence.

“I don’t know”

“O.k. If there is no light we can’t take the photo. So what do we need to think about?”

Patty took the pen and walked over to the ‘Fotografía’ brainstorm I’d drawn on the wall. She drew the first line and wrote la conversación (that’s ‘conversation’ for anyone who struggles with linguistics). I nodded slowly.

“Yes, conversation is something we might want to generate from a photograph.”

Miri puts her disposable camera to use at the church ceremony of her friends' 15th birthday yesterday - a rite of passage for girls in Mexico (the 15th birthday, not the disposable camera).

I passed the pen to Miri. “Miri, based on what we’ve just talked about, what do you think we need to look for before we take a photograph?”

Miri shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. Then she lit up, “La cámara!” 

“We do need a camera, true! But if we already have the camera, then what do we need to look for before we take the photo?”

“The film roll.”

She was right. For all my talk of composition, lighting, narrative and subject matter, I’d forgotten I was talking to people who had never really picked up the fundamental basic in photography, the camera.

With that in mind, I handed them each a disposable camera and asked them to document their week with it. “Remember to use the flash when it’s dark,” I warned. How do you use the flash? was the response.

This was my first photography session and also my first lesson: not to jump ahead of myself nor anyone else. We’re going back to basics and for the long road ahead that I now see, we’re taking baby steps all the way.

 

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