We just finished up the last two workshops for this month at ONE-SHOT–Iraq, and I’m already feeling sad and somehow empty. This might sound really crazy, but that may be one of the reasons why I love this project so much.
This was our second time running these photography workshops for children in Iraq, and the more I spend time on this project, the more I believe in it. It’s not even a year since we started in September 2011, and we have already witnessed an artistic/photographic growth in the students from last year. And we’re talking about students with an average age of 14! I can’t even imagine what they could be capable of when they reach 18. Well, that will be part of the challenge for the years to come; to stay close enough to the students so they can keep growing at their craft, as well as providing the necessary tools to become professional photographers in Iraq.
This past month, we carried out three different workshops, instead of just one as in 2011. We were running for most of those days, but with a group of foreign instructors and local volunteers, we were able to pull it off. We had a level 1 and 2 for the children at the local orphanage (same place we held a workshop last year) and a level 1 for children that work in the local bazaar (market). Those children participate in activities at the STEP Drop-in Center (UK based NGO in Iraq) on their breaks from work. For three weeks these children gave up their breaks to learn photography.
This year we had about 30 students total! Last year we had about half of that number. And the more we work with different children, the more I tend to believe that many of them are wired to be some sort of artist, and in this case photographers. The problem I see is that possibilities for them are shrinking instead of expanding. I knew this was going to happen. Their reality is what it is–it is their present, and it will take time for them to find purpose in photography or any other art. It will take time for families/relatives to understand that, it will take time for a society to start giving them a real opportunity or job at this craft. So my hope is to keep insisting, to keep pushing forward, to keep providing these opportunities through workshops, and to keep putting tools (gear) in their hands. The GOOD thing here is… they are starting to believe that they can! They are starting to believe that it’s possible and that they can count on us to keep fighting for their dreams.
As the title said, this is a new ONE-SHOT for me, because as I keep working on this project, I also realize things about my own passion, vision as a human being, and as photographer. I’ve been through a dry season, with no real inspiration for the past 4 months or so, doubting almost each step in life. I guess I still have to struggle a long way before that season is over. But there are things that are getting clearer to me too…
I love this project. I’d like to find more time for it, so I will make that happen with my humanitarian job. I’m looking at the idea of creating a type of photography “club”, so these kids can keep growing without waiting another 6 months to have a next class.
I love photography. That love keeps growing. I think the time has come to step in with everything I’ve got. So I may become a full-time photographer in the near future as well. We’ll see.
I love that my whole family is involved. Although it is hard at times, I think is worth the risk. I see how my family is getting “extended” somehow… we find new family members in the people who work with ONE-SHOT as volunteers. Elsbeth, Erin, Agnes, Zhila, Sarmad, Nawraz are a few of the names that my sons are calling “aunt” or “uncle” these days. We find new family members in most of our students, who graciously accept my own kids are their buddies.
Okay, no more words. Here are some images I collected during the past few weeks. To see the work of the students, you can either go to the ONE-SHOT blog, or stay tuned with my blog… more is coming.