Dozens of eager hands shot up. Impatient for their turn to speak, 40 loud and eager voices shouted out their observations: “Expression!” “Light!” “Pattern!” "Reflection!" “Feeling!”
This was the happy chaos that I had the privilege to be a part of – part 2 of Suatukala’s Photography Workshops for the children of a charming Tamil school, SRJK (T) Ladang Sungai Raya, Langkawi. Have you ever been in the company of 40 high-spirited, energetic, happy children? I left my home in Singapore at 7am… and at 3am, 20 hours later, I was still buzzing. And smiling :)
Photographer and workshop coordinator David Lok began with his own story. “I take pictures. It’s my job, and I actually make money doing this. But even when I don’t, I am still happy, because taking pictures make me happy.”
He showed the children some pictures from his portfolio and told them the stories behind each shot. He described the soaring feeling of photographing 400 butterflies as they emerged from their sleepy stupor.
He showed them an idyllic scene of a young girl sitting in front of her home, her face serene and bathed in the soft glow of a dozen oil lamps, then described the hilarious mayhem that ensued behind the scene, as they rushed to get the shot before an impending thunderstorm.
He also showed them what he called the ‘bluff’ photos – digitally manipulated images – and explained how several shots could be comped together and retouched to produce magical images of flying poodles and guitar playing durians!
Then it was the children’s turn to talk about the photos they had taken. They had been told to take photos of their family members and home environment. At this point, I believe they had been given no instruction other than how to turn the camera on, point and shoot.
The results were as we expected – some blurred, some badly lit, but all charming, and all full of heart and soul. Amongst the shortlisted pictures: a scowling granny watching her favourite soap, a thoughtful looking grandad driving home from the temple with a half-eaten lollipop in his hand, a sister polishing the family’s brand new car, a brother caught in mid-fall (I made him fall down for the shot!) crying babies, happy pets and family portraits.
Most were shy to talk about their photos at first, perhaps a little intimidated by David’s impressive photos, or a little embarrassed by their friends’ teasing. But we helped them to see the good points in every shot, explaining that story was more important than technique, and that every shot was a precious snapshot of a moment that can never be replayed.
Quickly the confidence returned, and by the time we got to the third part of the workshop - learning the basic elements of a good picture, everyone was on the same page. They oohed and aahed at the examples we showed, and when asked if they would try to compose shots as good as those, the answer was a definite, confident “YES!”