Something as mundane as a batch of eggs or light filtering through a thin parting of curtains can make for great photographs if the composition and framing are right. Looking for beauty and stories in everyday objects, starting from one’s own home, is the idea that Chennai Photo Biennale tries to maintain through their outreach student programmes (which kickstarted in 2018). They have recently gone online following the lockdown. After a successful run with children, Chennai Photo Biennale is turning to teen photography enthusiasts this time, with their seven-weeks-long workshop titled Teen Photo Academy.
#EyeSpywithCPB was their first online workshop for children aged 10 to 13. In April, they ran two batches for five days each, focussing only on the basics of light, composition and “having fun with photos”. “With teenagers, we can move a lot faster with the basics. Another aspect that’s different in our #TeenPhotoAcademy is the length of the programme,” says Gayatri Nair, co-founder of CPB and one of the facilitators of this programme. She continues, “We want to go in-depth into concepts like visual thinking, how to read images, writing about your work, learning about history and master photographers, studying relationships of photography and film, helping them build portfolios and more.”
The programme has been devised through extensive research — even though there is good material in the field of photography learning in the West, examples from the Asian context need to be added to make the material more relatable, says Gayatri. “We have curated teaching resources from the Aperture Foundation, United Photo Industries and The New York Times among many more,” she continues. Along with Gayatri, Habiba, a photographer and filmmaker, and Sakshi, a graduate from NIFT Chennai, will be facilitating the programme.
Teaching a medium like photography online has proven to be not only challenging but eye opening too, for the CPB team. “We want to break the myth that to take pictures you need to ‘go somewhere’. Focus on the things that make a home, home. The spaces, light, people, rituals... We are also encouraging ‘screenshot’ photography, where you call someone else and point your camera towards them and take photos using a phone screenshot,” says Gayatri. Despite overcoming technical difficulties, what is important is to keep the classes engaging. “A physical class can be boring if not planned and executed well. Sometimes we think that students will zone out if it is online, but that can happen just as easily, offline as well.” Making the classes interactive has shown some impressive results. Also, these classes have helped CPB expand their reach outside Chennai: In fact, this particular edition has seen children from five different cities.
Once the lockdown is lifted, CPB has plans to have a reunion with its online students. They are also in talks with the Government to launch this programme in four Government schools in Chennai.
Details are on its Instagram page, @cpbphotocamps. In case of queries, contact email@example.com, or call 9600295212.