The Project

Throughout rural villages in Southwest Uganda, young children attending community schools have been telling their story using photography.

These young people, many of whom walk miles to school & come from poor village households have embraced the power of photography. For the first time they have held, learnt and been able to take photographs. Creating a wonderful narrative of their life, exhibiting their images and telling the story of what it is to be a child in rural Africa.

So the project begins – February 2015

Following a well-received exhibition from my Uganda trip in 2014, I was back at the school, bearing 25 film cameras, 50 rolls of film and a plan to give each child a camera and teach them photography.

The rudimentary brick building, which contained half a dozen benches and a scruffy blackboard, was my base for the next few weeks as I prepared to teach the basics of photography to 25 eager children.

This was the first time the children had ever touched a camera, let alone been able to understand how to use one.

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Teaching photography

Of course, mini disasters were never far away. A couple of camera backs sprung open with film falling across the dusty floor, batteries going missing and children holding the camera at arm’s length. This was all part of the learning process, and thankfully, on the whole the children picked up the basics very quickly, learning how to hold a camera, how to frame a picture and how to use the basic controls.

 

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Intently making notes about photography

Over the course of the next week I arranged to walk the paths the children complete on a daily basis to get to school. Visiting each family in their home, walking miles upon miles, across valleys, up and down steep hillsides. The journey some of the children take on a regular basis was astonishing to me.

The opportunity for me as a documentary photographer to visit families and be allowed inside their homes was pretty inspiring. I felt privileged, often being the first westerner to step inside their homes and capture true rural Ugandan life.

Scenes unfolded in front of my eyes, a side of rural life that is often unseen. Living with a family gave me the access and freedom to shoot my images and form a strong bond throughout the rural community.

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Max posing with his family and joyfully holding his camera

Photographing the emotions of everyday life was rather special, but the real joy came when each child came out to see me with their cameras, proudly holding them with such love. “I have 12 pictures, Mr Julian” would be the comments from the children, as time after time each camera was presented in wonderful condition.

Travelling to the nearest city I got all 25 films processed. As I stood in the small processing lab, I became rather nervous of what would become of my teaching. The first film arrived, and upon scanning the pictures I was thrilled to see a life of a Ugandan child unfolding in front of my eyes.

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Merab & her 35mm

Each child had captured their life so uniquely. Family, friends, views from their house as well as their weekend activities. It was all beautifully presented in such emotive photographs.

Returning to the school, a small exhibition of images was held in the main classroom. Children stood mesmerised by the images. Shouts, laughter, pointing and fits of giggles filled the air, as for the first time these rural Ugandan children had their own pictures in print. A set of photographs to cherish and take home.

 

 

 

Selection of images from V1 of Give a Child a Camera, from the children at Eden School

Exhibition in the UK
Upon returning to the UK a successful exhibition which attracted hundreds of visitors was held at The Forum in Norwich, showcasing a range of work from the children accompanied by a selection of my own imagery.

 

V2 – 2016

Last year, having taught a group of 24 children photography I was quite simply blown away by the quality and original nature of their photography, it was amazing.
Returning this year, I taught a new group of children, along with many from last year and I’m pleased to say the results were incredible. I arrived to be greeted by children proudly pointing out all the parts of the camera, clearly the lesson plans I left last year had worked a treat!

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Collection of new & old photo students

The proudest moment was seeing the students from last year, turn up to my photography lesson, each of them with their cameras, in superb condition and so loved. I had a tear in my eye!

As well as teaching photography and letting the children photograph their life, I also continued teaching the teachers on the principles of photography, as well as sorting a photo room, a room for images to be shown and where all the cameras are stored in newly built locked cabinets.

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Teaching in 2016, Uganda.

After a week of teaching and running through the basic principles with new students, I then set about upping the quality of teaching to the students from last year.
A more comprehensive coverage of composition, apertures and shutter speeds was undertaken.

Move forward 10 days and the two groups were sent home with their cameras loaded with film, with the task of working to the brief. Take photographs which demonstrate your life, tell your story.

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One of the students using his camera

A week later and I was back at the processing lab in the city, being remembered from last year as “the crazy white man with lots of films”, I lived up to the statement as my moto taxi driver skidded to a halt, going over a small ramp, clipping a woman on bicycle and depositing me in the doorway of the lab. What an entrance.

I waited feeling as anxious as last year, as the first of the films came out of the lab. I felt the standard was as high as last year, but honestly I was blown away by the emotive images the children had captured.

This year, given we now had a superb photographic room it was decided an exhibition of all the images would be held, with invites going to all parents and guardians, who came out in force to enjoy an afternoon of tea, bread and stunning photography.


A selection of wonderful images from V2 of Give a Child a Camera

Back to the UK, I held two small exhibitions of the children’s work in Suffolk & Norfolk, at Sam’s Coffee House in Lowestoft and Open in Norwich.

V3 – 2017  Rwanda, Nyabihu school for the deaf

So… what next?
Well, returning across the border to Rwanda for my flight home (I always fly in via Kigali) I was invited to visit a small deaf school three hours from Kigali.
East Point Rotary in Suffolk have been supporting the school in the form of providing resources for someone to teach signing to the children, so it seemed appropriate to pay a visit.
The Director of the school is keen to bring my project into play, a move which I am really excited about. After all, these students will be visually stimulated and I’m excited to see what they will do and how they photograph their life.

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Nyabihu school for the deaf

 

 

Panel 1

The Beginning…

 

Cycling from England to Rwanda in 2012 was an adventure that changed a lot in my life. The people, cultures and gorgeous colours are a photographer’s dream. Run all this alongside the wonderful hospitality and the gritty nature of African life and it captivates the heart.

In 2014 I returned to Rwanda and Uganda, exploring the countries, meeting old friends and documenting some of the people I met on my journey.

Discovering the school

Having enjoyed a peaceful morning I came across a small school in a rural mountain-top location. The morning’s photography had not worked out – the light hadn’t been right and I didn’t feel too optimistic about my results. However, coming across 50 children singing their national anthem, stood on a large field high on the hillside, was a moment after which everything would change.
The school had been in existence only months, with Ronald Twongyeirwe teaching children from small outbuildings, using outdated materials.

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Ronald & children 2014

The love and passion of this small school captivated me and I knew I had to return and provide assistance in some form.

Move forward several months and following a successful exhibition, Give a Child a Camera was born.

So the project begins

Nine months later, I was back at the school, bearing 25 film cameras, 50 rolls of film and a plan to give each child a camera and teach them photography.

The rudimentary brick building, which contained half a dozen benches and a scruffy blackboard, was my base for the next few weeks as I prepared to teach the basics of photography to 25 eager children.

The photography project was a complete success. (see ‘The project’ for updates and current progress)

 

Julian with the photo students at Eden
Julian with the photo students at Eden

While at the school and thanks to marvelous support from lots of people in the UK, I purchased dozens of new benches, new teaching materials, introduced sustainable measures including building a chicken pen, buying chickens and most importantly paying for a mains water supply, along with several months of bills paid for.

 

 

 

Returning in 2016 I continued to run the hugely popular and successful project (click for current progress) but thanks to some significant left over funding of £800 I was able to significantly improve the sanitation of the school.

Since my initial trip, the school had been transformed by other outside help, most notably by a chap called Sam from the UK who raised funding to build new classrooms. This meant more and more children were pouring into Eden School, but the sanitation remained the same, a dreadful temporary mud building and a hole in the ground for over 200 children and teachers.
Thankfully in just two short weeks this was transformed to permanent brick built toilets, which have wooden doors and a space for handing washing and soap. A vast improvement.

Continuing the great work, other sums of money were spent on new materials, carpentry work and hiring a music teacher for several months to teach keyboard playing (something I also took with me in 2016).

The Sustainable measures were also increased, with the chickens producing tons of eggs and many chicks, I also purchased vast quantities of seeds, to enable a school garden to be launched. the results of which have been an abundance of fresh vegetables.

 

 

Panel 2

Contact

If you would like to support the project or would like more information please get in touch