For eight weeks I’m teaching photography to young people for NCS The Challenge. It’s a skills learning programme that 15 – 17 year olds can undertake over the summer. It focuses on bringing young people into communities that they might not otherwise associate with in daily life (i.e those with mental health difficulties) and putting their photographic skills into practice with community partners. As a photography practitioner I’m always trying to think of ways to engage students or workshop participants in creative ways of learning, yet everyone is so different in how they absorb and learn about photography. Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching styles and how it’s important to engage on an individual level with students — catering to their unique needs in order to foster their creative talent. There’s such a sense of pride when I see a student hungry for more knowledge. There’s also a curiosity about how my teaching may impact them and how photography may play a role in their future (career or otherwise).
A few months ago I had a message from the Francesca Maffeo gallery in Essex about possibly collaborating in some way. The name rang bells but I couldn’t place why it felt so familiar. A little bit of searching led me to LinkedIn where I discovered that the gallery director, Francesca, taught the A Level photography programme at my old college. Suddenly it all came back to me: how I ended up doing the A Level (I hadn’t initially chosen photography), how my passion for photography exploded and how I decided to go to university to study photography instead of my original choice of English.
A huge part of that was a great teacher. One that listened to my intentions, gave positive yet constructive criticism (even if my photographs were terrible), encouraged me to pursue my passion and helped me to understand that visual arts can be therapeutic in times of need (and I was most definitely fragile and in a time of need). Unfortunately I didn’t have that on my Photography BA, but I had it again with my excellent tutor Wiebke Leister on my Photography MA at the London College of Communication.
Francesca now has her own beautiful contemporary photography gallery and it was great to reconnect, after 15 years, with someone who played a key role in my own development as a photographer. Although I no longer live in that area it feels that life can seem so serendipitous, bringing new or old connections back into our lives. We now have some future collaborations coming up. All will become clear soon..