Yesterday I felt like I was revisiting my first day of class with the women at Sol. I was so nervous. It was finally time to see how the women did, how they applied their understandings of photography, and I was a wreck. Their pictures were ready. My time teaching was over. There was nothing more I could do but hope they listened and understood what I was trying to teach. On the way to pick them up, I thought about all the time we had spent together over the past three weeks and everything that happened.
In the beginning, we were all fairly timid and reserved. We did not know what was going to happen throughout the workshop, for it was new to us. I was new to teaching photography, especially in a foreign language. They were new to photography in general. They, like most people, viewed photography as something that preserves memories of people who are usually shown smiling in poses. They did not view it as a form of communication, as a way of connecting people by transcending cultural and geographic boundaries.
Slowly but surely as we delved deeper into the subject, they began to see photography in a new light. We discussed how as an art form, photography is most effective when it is natural. The most powerful and influential photographs are usually those that are not forced. They are moments captured at just the right time that tell a story anyone can understand. By focusing on human emotions, something we all share no matter how different our experiences are, photography speaks a universal language. I hoped to convey this effectively so that the women could understand, but it was difficult to do with the language barrier. The best I could do was show them. And so I did.
We looked at slideshows of photographs taken from various corners of the world, which put things into a global perspective. However, as my director Brenda said, sometimes it’s easier to understand and accept people who are obviously different from you based on physical aspects. It is more difficult to understand and accept people who are closer to you, people more like you. We tend to be harder on them. Believing there is truth to this, for I myself am more prone to judge people I know, I wanted to break down those barriers for the women. I wanted to show them that no matter how different their backgrounds are, they have a lot in common. Doing this, I believed, would create the space of trust and support that I hoped for.
In order to show them their similarities while simultaneously discussing photography, we discussed our favorite photographs, memories, and the best day we’d ever had. Many of their answers were interconnected or the same. This helped them see one another as equals, which Lorena even said during class one day. From the same level, which we eventually reached, we could start building that place of trust.
I could see them growing together, through disagreements and treaties, as the time passed. Each of them developed as individuals and as members of a group, providing something unique and special. Even for those who did not take photos, such as Blanca and Doris, it would not have been the same without them. Together, they have become a powerful group of women who are no longer afraid to speak of their dreams and the future, of hope and independence.
To make it even better, a great deal of their pictures turned out amazingly. Through their use of techniques like the use of light and the rule of thirds, the showed me that they not only listened, they understood. They applied everything I taught them and more. They exceeded all my expectations. I could not be more proud.