The corner bungalow in a tree-lined lane in RA Puram that doubles up as the office of the Chennai Photo Biennale was abuzz with excitement on Wednesday. Words of praise had come in from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, for the work of school students trained in iPhone photography by the Biennale team.
“Impressive work by these young photographers!” said a tweet by Cook, with three of the photos along with the hashtags #ShotoniPhone and #ChennaiPhotoBiennale. “We will be informing the students today, through their teachers,” said the Biennale’s founding member Gayatri Nair. She went on to wonder how many of the students already know who Tim Cook is, and how many of them would need an explanation about the significance of the compliment. “Celebrities like AR Rahman and Anil Kumble have also tweeted about it, so the children will probably be more excited about that,” she laughs.
For Gayatri, the three photos shared by Cook were no more significant than the others on display. “We have put up works by 25 students at Egmore Museum, and all of them are excellent,” she says, going on to talk about the 300-odd children, from different Government schools, that the Biennale had trained before zeroing in on the top 25 for a final camp. She likes to think that some of them are now interested enough in photography to take it further. “The techniques we taught them weren’t technology-specific: there was nothing that could only be captured on an iPhone,” she says, “Though iPhone cameras are of really good quality, we focussed on teaching how to choose a subject, frame a shot, gauge lighting and so on.” These are lessons they can apply to any smartphone or point-and-shoot camera, adds Gayatri. As for the iPhones received by the team, the organisers plan to take their photo camps to more schools around the city, even after the event itself is over.
“We are are looking at a second exhibition in December, by students from other schools trained by us,” she says.