Krousar Thmey is an organization mainly dedicated to the education of deaf and blind people. It is the same one we partnered with in Siem Reap, they have several centres across Cambodia and, among them, there is one in Kampong Cham.
We started the workshops just one day after finishing with DDP (there are so many holidays in April that we have had a tight schedule this month), but everything has been very easy thanks to the collaboration of one of the teachers, Prom Vichet, who assisted me setting the exhibition up in the school.
We put it in the central school yard, under the porch. All the children started to hang around us. Many of them are resident students and it reminds me of my scholar times in Madrid. Everyone wanted to help to hang the photos and commented on them; all the pictures were set up right away.
They drew and wrote about water with markers in a roll of paper that we put on the wall. They were a lot and more and more were coming, until the paper and the markers finished and everybody wanted to participate!
Introduction to photography
Next day we began the workshops. We made two groups of twenty pupils each, all of them were deaf; one would attend the workshop in the mornings, the other in the afternoon. The students were very smart and energetic, even in the afternoons, although it is very hot at this time of the year. They were very participative and their educational level was outstanding.
Although Krousar Thmey and DDP collaborate to collect Cambodian signs to create a Cambodian Sign Language, they teach on the basis on ASL. The fact that the student use this sign language based on American Sign Language made it easier for me to understand and communicate with them.
First we introduced the project briefly and later we made a guided tour through the exhibition. The students were willing to participate and they provided lots of ideas answering the questions we asked them..
Then, to open the reflection of water, we launched a question: has the amount of water changed along history? Is it the same, more or less? An enriching dialogue came up, making them even more willing to start the workshop to create their own images.
Most of the students know how to use the cameras because they have smartphones; some of them even have instagram.
We began learning a bit of History of photography and some guidelines about composition and a proper usage of the cameras.
First, we captured pictures of water in their day to day trying to look for different approaches.
After this, we worked on the creativity. We tried to find a different way to look at water. At the beginning they couldn’t think of new ideas, they weren’t able to find different views from the ones they had already found. We proposed them to play with it to awake their creativity by including a ludic component and by showing them some images which could inspirate them. Despite there was little time left, most of them entered the dynamic and found new perspectives.
Last, we used the photo-impact technique; this consists in, for instance, showing a very nice picture with a landscape and, then, another with a bigger framing, with the landscape surrounded by rubbish, showing a more complete image of the reality. By means of this activity, we want to make the students aware of the contrast that exists between the partial and the total image. This activity awoke their imagination and they produced their own creations easily.
Once all the activities were finished, we screened all the artworks to see them in group. The pupils enjoyed sharing and commenting their creations with the community and they told excited what their intentions had been, which way they had chosen to develop them, expressing their personal concerns and opinions. They could also reflect on their mistakes and share their perceptions; all the statements were valuable and appreciated by the others.
I like to spend some minutes at the end of the workshops exchanging info about our cultures: I tell them about Spain, they tell me about Cambodia… This time we ende up talking about flags and making a review on the flags around the world.
It has been a very nice experience, we are really glad, we think it has been a success and we hope that they can deepen in photography, we wish it could be together.
I have felt very backed by Krousar Thmey, thanks so much to everybody. I would like to say special thanks to the Director of the school, Prom Vichet, for finding the solution to include the workshops in the educative agenda. Also to Keo Phally, the assistant deaf teacher who has been a great support inside, coming with me to all the activities, and outside the school, being my cicerone in Kampong Cham. Last, I would like to especially thank Sinuon for having been my interpreter and for her kind help to send all the materials to Through Waters team in Ratanakiri. In general, thank you very much to all.