First Day with Cameras

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about handing 5- $300 cameras to students that aren’t responsible enough to bring their notebooks every day to class. Or able remember what class I teach.

But… they were great!

For the most part.

I had Julio come and attempt to put the “fear of God” in each of my classes, before handing the cameras out.

Maybe something was lost in translation… Not much was said about the consequences of chucking a camera at another student’s head, dropping a camera in a mud puddle and watching the bus run it over, or selling a camera on the blackmarket.

No worries, none of that stuff actually happened. At least, not yet… knock on wood.

Instead, Julio gave them a quick speech on “I’m sure you already know how to take pictures.” Errr, not so much, no.

But they learned pretty quick. And succeeded in filling up every single memory card I had!

The cameras all range in quality… the oldest one happens to be my first digital camera, all of 1 megapixel. My current camera is 8 megapixels.

The kids in tercero kept asking me how much the cameras cost. I told them “more than I earn for teaching you all year!”

Ha ha, a lot more.

Then they asked how much my own camera cost. I told them it was a gift, and therefore even •more• expensive… I really hesitated telling them how much the cameras actually cost. Julio told them that they each cost $400, which is a bit high (the nicest point-and-shoot I brought is around $250, and some of my coworkers are lending theirs, which are all around $300).

I go back and forth over whether we should be using digital or film… film is much higher quaility, and we could just scan the pictures to “digitize” them, and I kinda •like• the feel of film better, but it’s also much more expensive… but we have enough film cameras for each student to have their own (at least for a week or two… and then we just get a new roll of film!). But then there are processing costs, film costs, and the kids would be limited in the number of pictures they could actually take. And it would take a lot more time to purchase film, let each class spend a week taking pictures, get the film processed in the next town (5 hours away) and then scan all of the pictures.

In this case, the kids can take as many pictures as the camera will hold, see their pictures right away, and then we just download the ones they like and pass the camera on to the next person. No extra costs.

Except for the batteries. We are going to freaking EAT batteries.

And there’s the small problem of how well the cameras actually •work•… I don’t know if it was just the LCD screen (fingers crossed that it was!) or if this particular camera takes pictures that consistently have big white blobs in the middle of them. We’ll soon find out.

I’m really looking forward to next week, when cuarto and tercero get free time (all week) to take pictures as they please. Their assignment is a “self portrait,” but I told them they could really take pictures of anything else they like as well.

They’re in five groups in each class (we have five cameras). Each group has a camera, and each day one person is “in charge” of the camera. I give the camera to that person, that person is responsible for returning it to me. That person also decides who and what pictures are taken of.

The idea is that they will enlist the help of the other group members to take a self-portrait, or if they’re taking pictures of other things, the other group members will be using their “practice cameras” (remember the pieces of paper with windows cut out?) to practice composing fotos that they’d like to take.

The funny thing is, about half of them have cellphones with cameras in them (the other half just have regular cellphones… geez-o-man). I thought I’d be working with students that had never seen a photo before (okay, maybe not that removed from visual culture… but I certainly didn’t expect kids to be taking pictures of •me• during class with Motorola Razors… I can’t even afford a Razor!).

But– the kids are awesome! I would walk around and ask each group how it was going. Sure, some of the kids ran off in the opposite direction while the rest of us went to the plaza, and I didn’t see them until we got back to the school (very embarassing… another teacher was standing there talking to them… whoops!). But most of the groups I saw were very concerned about the composition of their photos, how their subject looked, and getting to see the picures after they took them.

I really can’t wait to see their pictures… and neither can they! They keep asking me when I’ll print out the practice ones they’ve taken so that they can take them home.

That’s on the list for this weekend.

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