Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Big Picture in Wales

Today was day one of the two year project called Experiencing the Landscape, which is giving children from ten schools from south west Wales the opportunity to take a camera out and photograph their local landscapes. Co-ordinator Cheryl Kitt from Llandeilo and professional photographer (me) Ken Day from Llandybie started with two schools in Milford Haven – the Comprehensive in the morning followed by the Juniors in the afternoon.

Two of the best things about this project for me are the excitement on the kid’s faces when we arrived, and then, after the boring bits (for them, I’m certain) of the introductions etc, the handing out to them of their own new camera to use for the project. It was definitely Christmas early for two classes of children today! The cameras are beautiful in silver and, though simple enough to point and shoot without much training, deliver a result that’s good enough to print out at A4 and look really brilliant. The kids love them.

(Above: Milford juniors in their special garden pergola)

This is, after all, the end point of the project. After they’ve taken pics around their schools, and have gone out on four field trips to different beauty spots, they will be sorting the photos out on computer and then choosing their best ten images. The culmination will be a big exhibition in a local public venue in the spring, with a panel of pictures of each child’s work.

But back to today. The Milford Haven Comprehensive group are a lively bunch, being a mixture of year tens and sixth formers. The younger ones, as you’d expect are less restrained in their enthusiasm and showed their pleasure in having their own camera to take out by getting excited and snapping away to each other. The older kids were a bit more relaxed and showed their cool and their superior knowledge of cameras. Actually, they were really pleased to be part of the project. When we all went out into the grounds of the school for a bit of practice, all of them took it seriously and the first set of pictures showed great promise. As part of the project will be about the pupils making choices from their pictures, we started that off by asking the kids to choose their best shot of the day. At this stage, all they had to do was look through the images on the screen of the camera and them make an agonising choice. Cheryl and I looked at everybody’s favourites and heard why they were the best.

(Above: Milford comprehensive checking out their new cameras)

After lunch, Cheryl and I went to the junior school, where we were greeted by a very excited class of children, waiting to get their hands on the cameras. Naturally, they were all quick to work out how to take pictures and were soon snapping away at each other in the classroom. As soon as we had made our introductions and had said what we are going to do, we took the cameras outside to a very special garden in the grounds of the school. In the middle of the garden there is an octagonal pergola and we all had fun taking pictures of the plants, the flowers, the roof of the pergola and even ones of me!

Later, we went to an enclosed courtyard in the heart of the school where there were mature trees, birds feeding at hanging nuts, a pond with fish and even some gullible adults to sneak up on and photograph. Then, back in the classroom, everybody had to choose their best picture and say why they thought it was good. Just like in the Comp, the juniors are a great bunch to work with and I can see we will have real problems reducing the best of their pics to just ten each for the exhibition next spring.