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Talking Pictures- In Pictures

I am, as usual, ashamed to say that i was too busy working to take many process shots of the group working. The advantage of this project is that we had some extra cameras for the groups to use and document our working- we were too busy to spend much time doing this and i don’t have permission for some of the images but here’s some that we can show- just remember my mantra “we’re not here to have fun”!!!!

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The Music Animals post-shoot
Determination by the Music Animals
Determination by the Music Animals
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Demonstrating how to hold the camera…
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At their exhibition at Larbert High School- funny faces beautifully executed
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Editing one of the stories from the nursery
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“having a practice with the camera…”
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Chocolate Moshis on their shoot- right outside the classroom. This poor group has the least amount of time to get their photograph.
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The Chocolate Computer Games mid-shoot. I supplied a spray bottle with water so they would fake sweat on the face. This was, by far the children’s favourite prop with most being scooshed at least three times during each shoot!
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The Chocolate Dreams story utilised the incredible gymnastic skills of a group member for their story and picture
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The Disney Dogs

This group wrote a lovely story which i have published below. As you can see it’s quite a long story but as they wrote it it just got better and better and really highlights the children’s talents for creativity and imagination- i think it also demonstrates how it’s a fairly hands-off approach to their writing and image editing…

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Below are some of the additional images from the Disney Dogs shoot- these pictures just make me smile- so much comedy and fun from this group…

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Connect by Disney Dogs
Connect by Disney Dogs
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Emotion, by Wild Wolves

I am going to use several of the finished images from the Talking Pictures project which finished at the end of June, to talk about how we made the work. With thanks to the teachers i got lots of the model release forms returned. We worked on the project for approximately 3 months and there’s more information about it in my previous post…

Bearing in mind the project ran from April to June and that is the busiest term for schools it was important to make sure that we developed a way of working that caused the least amount of disruption to the classes. We began with a few lessons to the whole class. The first time i met the children we had a class discussion on the power of photography and the power of the image. I showed them photographs by August Sander, Richard Avedon and Helen Levitt. We discussed the different cameras used by each of these photographers, narrative in photography, reading a photograph, labelling their subjects and in the case of Helen Levitt the morality of using a fake lens on the side of her camera to photograph her subjects without their knowledge. The discussions were robust and the children were engaged.

Many of the images from the shoot day with the Wild Wolves were just wonderful (to be fair all the groups worked hard on their shoot days). The model, C really embraced the role, blocked out what was happening around him and posed without inhibition. I added a selection of images from each group’s shoot to a closed album in flickr and sent it to the teachers. The children and their teachers were then able to choose the one they liked best. They were asked to consider which one best represented their story, and the one with best exposure, composition, and where the model was best posed. This was a democratic process done by the whole class which removed any decisions made through favouritism and also boosted the confidence of the models themselves. It made them feel part of a team working towards a common goal.

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Below is the final edit but i’ve also included a few other layout ideas the children and their teachers had to choose from…The exhibition images were always going to be 20×24″ so we decided on the text taking up a smaller space as it would always be readable at the selected print size.

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Choice of edit with text on image.                             Choice of edit where text is below image                                                                                                                              

The children began with their practice shots. As you can see the day we worked on the practice shots the Wild Wolves had the luxury of working in a classroom! It allowed us to practice setting up the background stands and practice pose. From my perspective it’s also good practice for me to make sure that i am working to that delicate balance of demonstrating and teaching but still allowing the children full creative control.

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A few of the practice shots- looking at angle of view, crop, expression, colour cast, location and camera practice.

This images demonstrates how the Wild Wolves worked. All the group members took turns each at being the main photographer. As you can see this image was taken by a group member. I am demonstrating to E how to hold the reflector (most of the children found this to be the most boring job)! This image also demonstrates how the photographs can be taken anywhere with the right kit- in this case some cheap stands and black background. As earlier stated, space is at a premium in every school i have ever worked in so it’s better to work outside to avoid being shifted every 50 minutes which is never long enough to get set up. Working with natural daylight is also one of the best sources of light which adds to the quality of the image- finally look at all that space! No tables or cupboards or chairs to tidy away!

The Wild Wolves at work
Showing E how to use the reflector (this is, apparently the most boring job)!
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Heartlands Project

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I was commissioned to develop a project with two primary 7 classes from Whitburn which took as it’s topic the Heartlands development. This development, just outside Whitburn, is currently the largest development project in Britain. Taking the history and surroundings of this site as inspiration my brief was to create a full day’s workshop with half of the day taking place on site and the other half back in the classroom.  The difficulties lay in relying upon the Scottish weather, class sizes and access to enough of the site to be able to produce a set of good quality, varied images.

I chose to focus my attentions on the beech trees – one in particular which you can see above. I used a digital projector to create a template of this tree on to A0 mount board. The children would create a collage of lots of small photographs taken during their visit, printed on to A4 sticker paper, cut up and stuck on to the Beech tree template.

We could not have asked for better weather during the two school’s visits allowing us to wander the site taking a variety of images. The children were asked to focus their attentions to photographing to specific colours; brown, green, grey, blue and white.

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The children really enjoyed taking their pictures and learning the geology of rocks on the site, they listened intently to Alex Muirhead, Development Director of the site.

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After their site visit the children returned to their school where I joined them and we began printing their photographs out on to contact sheets. They were encouraged to choose a job suited to their skills; cutting out the pictures, dividing them in to the separate colours, helping with the printing, taking the sticky backs off the prints and sticking them down.

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We almost finished their collage! The class teachers were happy to finish their collages in class next week but below is an (almost) finished collage. The pupils and teachers alike were very happy with their work, which will go on display at a sharing day at Whitburn High School in September so I hope to be able to post photographs of the finished tree collages. 

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This project was successful on many levels not least of all because the children learned new photography skills, gained confidence in their creativity, worked as a team to produce a piece of work and of course built upon their knowledge of the Heartlands development.