Ugandan Children & Their Cameras

The mixture of teaching, practical work (sorting various elements for the school), dealing with African suppliers and meeting so many local people has left me absolutely exhausted.

My head hitting the pillow at around 10:30pm, I stare out towards the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sky bright with stars and more often than not illuminated with distant storms. The lack of light pollution is a joy to behold, while the sound of music beats and occasionally drums ring around the mountains in the distant. Closer to home the air is filled with occasional sounds from cattle and calling of crickets.

It’s a lovely way to drift off to sleep.

Back to the school and the photography in particular, well, to be honest the 24 children who have had cameras have completely exceeded my expectations with the quality (in both technical and compositional terms) and variety of photographs they have taken. Two children in particular have produced work which is completely encapsulating. I was so nervous taking the 26+ rolls of film (I had to give a couple of extra rolls out due to ‘accidents’) to the processing lab in the nearest town.

The staff in the lab and the other photographers waiting for their prints (there are quite a few film photographers in town (not in the villages), making a living taking portrait of shots of people at their home) were rather transfixed by my project and the idea of giving children cameras to take pics of their life. “But why, they will just destroy the camera” said one middle aged man (how wrong he is!)

I returned in anticipation to see what had become of my teaching and in particular if anything had come out…. Every single child had managed to meet some form of the objectives I set, some taking great pains to really demonstrate a side of their rural life which a traveller would not normally glimpse.

Upon returning to the village, I set about organising the images and deciding on which ones I would display – due to limited space, it was agreed that a collection of the five best images from each child would be displayed in the school
Come Monday morning, the children were in a state of excitement and amazement, pointing, laughing, showing and talking about their images.

This is what I wanted to achieve and I’m so pleased the children feel they have something from the experience.

Photography teaching has been added to the monthly timetable, I have finished some lesson plans and hope to get them printed in town later this week…The children and their families get to keep the cameras along with several rolls of film (thankfully I’ve just managed to buy some more in town) and of course an album with all their images.

They know their pictures will feature in an exhibition in the UK this summer and are excited to say the least

Of course, there has been lots of other work going on while I’ve been here, including tons of new educational books, materials (such a benches/boards etc) water supply to the school, medical & new uniforms for those without (plus much more!)

With my time approaching the end, I’m meeting the final few parents and interested people this week, before I make the journey back to Rwanda.

Life in rural Uganda has been wonderful and I genuinely feel privileged to have spent all this time living with a Ugandan family, watching, learning and taking part in their life. I know I’ll miss them all dearly.

About Julian Claxton

My passion for photography is supported by experiences gained on exciting travel adventures and through working for fantastic photographers. In 2006, I made the exciting step of realising my dream of becoming a freelance photographer. Since this pivotal moment, I have held numerous exhibitions, been featured nationally & internationally in print and won numerous awards, including being a finalist in the National Geographic Photographic competition in 2013 with one of my documentary images from the Sudan. From an early age I began to enjoy taking pictures of my daily life, basking in the thrill of sending the film to the printers and eagerly awaiting the pocket sized prints. My first foray into the world developing and printing strangely began at school when I was asked to produce a descriptive photo for the school newspaper. A front page shot later and I was destined to start the long arduous journey of becoming a photographer. In between exciting travel adventures and working for fantastic photographers, I graduated from college and at a crossroads in my journey to becoming a pro photographer, I embarked on a career working as a medical photographer. Learning new skills and dabbling in video production as well as progressing design skills, I yearned for the challenge and freedom of becoming a freelance. I have been fortunate enough to work on some amazing assignments which have included shooting a documentary assignment with an air ambulance, gaining full access to a British Pro cycling team during an international UCI tour, cycling to Rwanda and creating a photographic documentary of my journey. The experiences continue to grow, meeting wonderful people to photograph and telling the story of their journey. The list of events and striking moments that have played out through my viewfinder continue to grow and provide me with ever increasing snapshots of life to capture. One of the highlights of my career thus far has been staying in rural Uganda, teaching photography to the kids from the region, in a project I set up in late 2014, entitled ‘Give a child a camera’. The basis of the project is to supply 35mm cameras and film to the rural schools in this region of East Africa, teaching the children how to shoot photographs. After a week of taking photos of their life, an exhibition is held at the school and the children leave with their very own album, camera and film. One of the images I shot at Eden school in rural Uganda, during morning chapel won the 2015 Travel Media Tourism and Photography award. A great honour and one that I wouldn’t have picked up had it not been for the wonderful children of East Africa. For further information please visit www.julianclaxtonphotography.com
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5 Responses to Ugandan Children & Their Cameras

  1. My husband and I also love photography, travel and cycling! Beautiful writing and pictures. Thanks for the post!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.
      I am now back in the UK and will be updating the blog with further information over the next week or so.

      All the best and safe travels

  2. Tina says:

    Hello Dear Son

    Well it’s nearing the end of your trip and it appears that all has gone to plan and I think in some cases exceeded your expectations, so be very proud and leave with a feeling of self satisfaction and indeed thankful that you are leaving a legacy to be proud of. We can’t wait to hear all about it and the tales you have to tell, we have missed you but pleased that you were able to furnish us with information and pictures which have been so wonderful and meaningful. Have a relaxing time in Kigali; we hope the border crossing goes ok. Have a safe enjoyable flight back and we look forward to seeing you Monday sometime. Love from us both Mum & Dad xx

    _____

  3. Twongyeirwe Ronald. says:

    Hello Mr Julian!!!
    This is your brother Twongyeirwe Ronald.
    am so pleased to say hello to you my friend. Every thing at school is going on smoothly and the people of water have eventually come and we now have water also that you paid for . children are now jumping for what you have done. will send you the photo soon. you are so so special to Eden school. we are proud of you.

    • So lovely to hear from you Mr Director!!
      Wow, what an adventure. I have only just returned home, as my flight from Kigali was cancelled…

      So glad the water has arrived! God Bless!
      I’ll be in touch very soon.

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