Hello and welcome to Photo Start’s Weekly Exposure!
Weekly Exposure will be a regular blog series in which we’ll keep you updated on all the things we’re up to in Nairobi, Kenya, New York, NY and Washington, D.C. From student spotlights to exciting announcements, Weekly Exposure will be your one stop shop to keep track of the incredible work we’re doing to better the lives of our students.
For our first blog, we want to focus on getting you up to speed. Read on for more about why we started, what we’re working towards, and what we’ve accomplished in our first year of work.
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Photo Start was founded by David Lehman in 2016 after he discovered an article on CNN describing another foundation’s work in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya. After learning about the struggles children living in the slums faced, David moved to Nairobi to help the children escape poverty by teaching them life skills through photography workshops. And thus, Photo Start was born! The program began in the Mathare slums, and within the first year expanded to the Kibera slums where we now primarily work. Kibera is the largest urban slum in Africa with 60% of Nairobi’s population living on just 6% of the land. There are anywhere from 250,000 to one million people living in Kibera, and the economic situation is dire.
Today, Photo Start is working to enhance the economic opportunities of students by teaching them critical skills, improve community relations, and create a self-perpetuating cycle of instruction where students become instructors and mentors.
Gimme the big picture.
Photo Start is a 501(c)3 charitable organization created to teach life and business skills through photography to children living in destitute and underserved areas around the globe. Our main goal is educating children by teaching them marketable skills, including intangible skills. These skills are pre-requisite for modern photography, but across most industries. Students learn everything from technology, to hygiene, collaboration, people skills, and more. After completing the Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced curriculums at Photo Start, students work their way through the course and become the teachers and mentors of the program.
Tell me more, tell me more!
The course curriculum covers Photography and Videography, Technology, and Personal and Community Development. Students in Kibera enrolled in the course participate in regularly scheduled sessions over the course of several months. These sessions teach students real-life skills such as:
The program’s sessions consist of both theory and open shooting time, field trips to significant heritage and cultural sites, and lead to a final exhibition featuring the work students have created. By the end of the workshops, our students have an ability to create, tell, and share a story through words and pictures.
As the students progress through the Photo Start program, they are trained and encouraged to mentor other children. Post-mentorship, Photo Start students can become trainers within the program, which leads to workshops led exclusively by Photo Start graduates. In this way, Photo Start will establish a self-perpetuating cycle of instruction. This creates a deep, generational impact on the local community, and leads our students to become not only photographers, but successful and independent people in any field.
When the teacher becomes the student.
As our students have learned throughout the course, we have also learned along the way. Seeing the kids’ faces light up as they learn to capture the rough world around them from new perspectives, has been incredibly special. They love the cameras, they love to see their own likeness captured (especially when there aren’t many mirrors around), and they are whip smart. They develop habits and skills extremely quickly, with minimal intervention — point them in the right direction and watch them explore! It’s an awesome adventure learning about Kibera, its culture, and the fierce determination of its residents to escape poverty.
Where do we go from here?
Our program started with 20 regular students in the Mathare slums, and consisted of classes six days a week. Last year, we picked up two new programs in Kibera and increased our roster to 60 students. We are planning to co-pilot projects in Zambia and South Africa this summer (stay tuned!). We are looking forward to a joint program with the Nairobi National Museums this summer, with an exhibition there to follow. Over the next three weeks we will be exploring controlling light with modifiers, reflectors/diffusers, and flash photography. The children are experimenting with more video opportunities, and some are beginning to even make their own Soundtracks in GarageBand. We were lucky to receive two donated iPads and have been integrating them into the classes, which has been very exciting for the kids. They use spreadsheets to log and account for the SD cards, manipulate photos and experiment with design using text (and maybe some Angry Birds every now and then!).
We are focused on increasing relationship with current and future sponsors, who generously donate the equipment and funds we need to continue our work. This project would not be possible without the help of sponsors, funders and readers like you! Please donate here if you want to keep read more excellent blog posts like this one.
Want to hear more about Photo Start? Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Instagram here, and like us on Facebook here. Be sure to check our website regularly for exciting announcements!