JJ (Hota Hota in Spanish) is a Casa Alianza street educator, which means that he has the difficult task of persuading teenagers to get off the streets and the glue and come to live at Casa Alianza. Besides a lot of dedication, the job also involves a lot of football and more games of Uno than it’s worth mentioning. However, in the past two weeks JJ and I also discovered a new way of building up a confidence with the teenagers whilst encouraging them to commit to something. My Canon camera is the secret weapon.

I have given disposable cameras to two street boys: David, 17, and Martín, 16, who has lived on the streets for 8 years and recently came out of jail. I am due to pick them up tomorrow. Before I gave them the cameras we had a little photography lesson, one on one. I showed them how to use the manual settings on my camera and we left the mattressed grounds belonging to the street community and went a-wandering the city. Looking at the world through a lens meant that the boys were able to observe life beyond their enclosed camping grounds and apply a little experimentation to their day. I have never seen such a look of surprise as when I hung the camera round their neck and told them it was their turn to take the pictures. In both cases their initial reaction was to shake their head and try to give it back to me.

Martín was the first boy we tried this with. He became really enthusiastic the more we walked about, and he learnt how to use the manual settings within the first couple of hours. We went to watch the fountains outside the Monument of the Revolution; Martín sprawled himself on the ground in order to capture the movement of the water and the people running through it, making the most of the midday sun on the monument. Below is my favourite photo taken by him:

Martín's view of the Momument as two girls prepare to brave the fountains. This was the first time he'd ever used an SLR camera - all the manual settings were done by him.

So enthused was Martín by this day out that he asked if we could do the same the following week. The next week we met to climb up the Monument (free entry to the mirador on Wednesday’s for anyone in Mexico City). Martín arrived with his cousin Miseal, who was interested in observing his cousin’s new-found interest in photography. And so our little group climbed the monument. Here is my favourite Martín photo from that day:

Martín captures a new perspective from the lift up to the view point.

After this session, I felt I might have gained enough commitment from Martín to give him the disposable camera. With that little exchange off he went and I was sure there was even a small skip in his step.

David’s was a little more of a difficult case. His glue consumption is much higher than Martín’s and this has taken its toll on his attention span. The first twenty minutes had his interest and he put a lot of concentration into learning how the speed and aperture control the entry of light into the camera. However, a visible change came over his face after a while and I could see his mind was on other things. After we finished our walk I asked him if he was sure he wanted to commit to the project. He hesitated and then said yes. I have my doubts but I have put some faith in him and I gave him the Kodak disposable. In David’s favour, he took some well thought-out shots. Below is my favourite David photo:

David captured the "perfect moment" as this man in white walked passed the church on Calle Juarez.

Whether or not David and Martín will commit to the project is definitely not certain, but I’ve learnt that sharing a camera does break the ice; for the most part we have engaged them in a new activity and, for the most part, they took an interest and some quality photographs. All else will be revealed tomorrow…