“What?!” I hear you say… “We’re trying to get them OFF their phone, not give them another reason to be on it!”
I have a Tweenager and a Teenager myself, so I completely get where you’re coming from! Yet photography can be a great use of a smartphone camera… because they use it in a completely different way: it’s not mindless… it’s mindful. Yup, I know that word is bandied about for everything nowadays, but what it actually means is when something allows you to be completely ‘in the moment’ – and that is exactly what photography can do for your young person, if they learn some creative skills and start to develop an eye and enthusiasm for it.
And talking of eyes… this is something fundamental to teach them right from the start: using their eyes before picking up the phone or camera. Because this is definitely something I see young people doing…. not really looking, but just swinging their camera about and looking ‘through’ it. Yet part of learning photography is using your eyes BEFORE you lift up your camera to spot interesting things to photograph in the first place – this is why I can frequently be heard calling out at the beginning of the #pictureit Photography Workshop I teach to this age group: “Look, look around… use your eyes first! Your eyes are the most powerful tool you have in photography!” (By the end of the morning I don’t need to even say it).
For this age group, there’s a fantastic sense of freedom of learning something that isn’t stifled by the worry of ‘right and wrong’ answers, like it unfortunately often is in school. You don’t have to be a traditionally academic-minded young person to learn photography; you don’t need to worry about memorising things – and in fact, it very much suits creative-brained or visual learners. (My own daughter is dyslexic and learnt super-quickly how to compose a great photo, at age 11/12.)
What else can it teach you? To be innovative and not to give up at a first attempt; to keep trying different approaches until you have something you are really pleased with, knowing it’s all the better for trying it three different ways beforehand!
To gain confidence in your own unique style, interests and vision. So what if you love photographing pebbles/buildings/flowers and someone else finds that boring? If you get joy from it, then follow that joy! We all see the world around us in a slightly different way – we can all photograph the same thing but it will probably look different – isn’t that fab?
To self-evaluate – part of photography is to be be able to pick a photo that works well and to be able to verbalise WHY it works and why you chose it. (This is something we do in my Workshop – often children find this tricky at first but I often find that they do instinctively know, but perhaps are slightly worried about voicing their opinion in case it’s ‘wrong’).
Finally, to appreciate the beauty in the everyday… to tell a story… to explore the world around you… to find nuggets of peace in a frantic world… to look, to *really* look and find the extraordinary in the most ordinary of places and capture that for others to see too… is truly a rather wonderful thing to learn at this stage of their lives.
If you’ve got a creative Tween or Teen, I run school holiday workshops, based just outside Woking, Surrey. Next one is on Mon 18th Feb 2019 – click here for more details.