How do you teach a course on material you began learning one month ago? I found myself in this predicament shortly after I began my journey into the world of photography. Before DukeEngage, I had no experience in photography. My relationship with cameras not attached to a cell phone was nonexistent. My coworkers at the Gallery of Photography handed me my first ever digital camera, tripod, and Photoshop manual. I was tasked with photographing tours, pieces on display, and exhibition openings. My coworkers patiently taught me how to compose these photographs, how to take them from better angles, and how to adjust different types of lighting. They then taught me how to use photo editing skills, such as Photoshop, to enhance the images I had created.
I practiced this with multiple images, both in the gallery and on my spare time. I was fascinated by how easily an image could be manipulated. Moving a few steps forward or adjusting the shadows and highlights could transform a mediocre moment into a once in a lifetime snapshot. After a few weeks of learning these techniques, it was time for the true test of skill: teaching them to others inexperienced in photography.
I was tasked with designing, coordinating, and leading photography workshops with migrant youth. I was to teach them how to take better photographs and use photo editing skills to construct photomontages that represent their unique identities as individuals and as members of the migrant community in Dublin. Luckily, I had two of my fellow DukeEngage students by my side throughout the workshops. I taught them the skills I had learned and relied on them to support me through the workshops by keeping the students’ attention focused and giving them personalized attention when they had questions about the cameras and their tasks.
I was nervous throughout the workshops, but I was encouraged by the reactions of the students who loved being exposed to new fields and who were fascinated by the world exposed through a camera’s lens. I went through each presentation with growing confidence. Together, we went over the basic logistics of using a digital camera, self-curating images, and identifying objects, people and places that can represent someone’s identity. They were delighted by the cameras they were loaned and loved taking portraits of themselves, their friends, and images they found interesting in the gallery as practice.
They were even more delighted when we went on a photo scavenger hunt throughout the city center so that they could become accustomed to the photographs. In total, 10 students took over 260 photographs in the span of 1 hour and 15 minutes. They grew more confident in their images with every passing shot, with some going as far as to crouch down on sidewalks or ask passerby if they could photograph their dogs. I was overjoyed when they said they were excited for the next workshop, where we could begin superimposing the images they had taken to tell their personalized photostory.
The Gallery of Photography addresses a new social issue every day. Whether they are displaying digitizing photographs of migrant communities, exhibiting artful photographs of different borders in Ireland and beyond, or introducing photography to migrant youth, the gallery is making an impact on the community. I feel extremely grateful to take part in the social change happening and I love witnessing the impact the photographs we take and display have on the Dublin community. Working here has reawakened my passion for working with youth and has inspired a new appreciation for photography as a medium. I look forward to each day at the Gallery of Photography and hope I can continue making an impact throughout the remainder of my time here.