Workshop Days 3-5 :: Prints, Narratives, & Guest Photographer

It is Sunday now, and I have three days of the workshop to catch you up on. Well, technically there is Day 3 (distributing and discussing photos) and Day 4 ( Storyboard and Narrative Interviews), but on Saturday I serendipitously met some photographers working on a photo story for USAID about rehabilitation and recovery from the war. They found me shopping in the market and wanted photos of my transaction with the shop owner. More on what that turned into in Day 5 below.

Day 3 :: Distributing and Discussing Photos.

The kids were instructed to choose their top 5 photos for telling their story. They were VERY excited to get their prints back. All of these kids had never used a camera before this workshop – and several of them said that when they were asking people permission to photograph them, that the people told them the camera was just a toy and not real. The kids were so proud to take the prints back to these people and prove them wrong.  The people then told them that they had missed out on getting their photo taken.  The kids were happy to pass out prints to their friends. Each kid then presented the five photos to the entire class and discussed the character in the photos (characters is one element to storytelling that they learned about), why they took each photo, and how it related to their story.  Some children were not able to make the link on the third concept – so I often had to ask “How does this photo relate to something in your story or in your life?”. Only then, did we sometimes understand the linkage. For instance, one photo was of a man digging through the dumpster and finding pineapple peals to eat. Once he was done describing the character and the activity photographed, and maybe why he photographed it, then I had to ask how it related to his story.


When that didn’t quite get the point across, I had to ask him more directly if he had ever been in a situation where he had to search for food because he was so hungry. He then proceeded to tell a detailed story about being abandoned at his house with only a little food left behind for him – not enough to last. Then he had to scavenge for food. He took the photo because he wanted to show what life on the streets was like – but the underlying key is that he related somehow to this character in his photo.

At the end of the day, it isn’t so important as to whether the kids followed the process correctly, but rather whether they got something out of both the photography and the story boarding. Each presentation was recorded, and their explanations for their photos will be transcribed into captions for the photos.

Day 4 :: Recording Personal Narratives of Kids
An exhibit might not mean much without the context of who each child is and the experiences that they have been through.  In my experience, for myself and a few people I have discussed the kids with, people want to know what kind of situations these kids are coming from. Each of them has a different circumstance. And if their stories will be shared with the public – then a little background information will be helpful.

So, on this day, I had the kids individually present their story board illustrations to me and the translator, which allowed for more privacy.  Next they were asked to give their personal narrative about their life :: what circumstances they are coming from, where they are sleeping at night, and about their experience with CRO. Not all of the children have given this information to staff at CRO, so it could be that this is the first time some of their backgrounds and situations are being documented.  Many tears were shed by the children and some details were shared that will not make it into their public exhibits. I was quite surprised at how much time each child took to take to share their personal life stories. I bet they don’t get a chance to do this very often. I was so surprised by how open they were with me. They all had no problem with being recorded or video taped, although some of them were a bit soft spoken. By this day though, they were used to my camera equipment and had consented many times to me photographing them or recording them.  Certain personal details that they did discuss will not be shared based on their requests.

Their stories will eventually be shared on this blog, when I complete the compilation of all the pieces. But to give you an idea of what some of these children are dealing with :: abuse of parents or caregivers was very common, some kids were orphans, and some kids had been abandoned.  Some children, what some might call the “run-aways”, were actually chased away. In each case, CRO helps the children to attempt to find their families. One of the run-aways, the youngest in my workshop, has run away from an abusive situation with his grandmother. He felt hated and connived against and wanted to find his mother again. He has been in Lira living on the streets since March or April – and he has yet to find her. Exhibiting his story locally may even put him one step closer to tracing her.   There are a lot of unanswered questions for me in scenarios like this – but hopefully this child can soon be reunited with his mother. Unfortunately in Lira there is no “white pages” phone book and most people do not have access to email or facebook. In fact, on day one when I taught them about the internet, this child had never heard of the internet nor email.  In Lira, unless you have someone’s cell phone number, being connected to the community is not easy. Even renting a house here or items for sale are all word of mouth. People who put signs up on their gates or cars are a bit progressive.  Finding his mother is not going to be easy.

Their final stories will include these photos, their drawings, and quotes from their personal narrative.   I did notice that the confidence level of the children certainly seemed to change and improve throughout the week. Kids who were serious and shy of me were smiling and asking questions by Friday.

The social workers at CRO and I are now going to establish a place for the photographs to be exhibited locally which will give the street kids a voice in the community.  Lira Hotel is one location where I would like to see their stories exhibited. Government representatives and councilmen usually stay at this hotel. The hotel also functions as a satellite university and one of the nicer restaurants in town. Other facilities we are considering are places where potential funders or sponsors might attend. CRO is working on a tight budget, and there is much more that they would like to do if they had the resources.

Day 5 :: Invited Ugandan Photographer for Q&A with kids

Back to meeting the two USAID photographers in the market on Saturday: Since I haven’t met any other photographers in Lira, I was quite excited – and even more so that they were not munos (white people). In fact, they were from Uganda. After they were done with their photo shoot (with me as their subject), I requested if they would come to CRO to let the kids ask them questions about how to become a photographer in Uganda.

One photographer and journalist, Juma Kasadha, consented and so did the CRO program manager. So within a couple of hours one of the photographers was with me at CRO talking to about 30 kids. Since it was a Saturday, even the kids who are in school (those CRO helped to reunite with their families) were there. So, we can consider that to be Day 5. He was very dynamic and encouraging to the kids. He talked a little about everything. One question from the kids was “How do I become a photographer”. He told them to take the first step, and keep on walking. Then spent about 5 minutes or so giving some very motivational answer for the children. I asked him to put it into practical terms about how to save money to buy their first camera, since they are quite expensive here and these kids don’t all have money. He gave them a very practical answer that explained how they could save 1,000 shillings each day (50 cents), and after 30 days put down a deposit for half the amount of a film camera. Then 30 days later, pay for the second half. Then save money for film and developing. Earn money by selling photos to people…save…and eventually upgrade to digital. Then hire someone else to use the second camera to go out and make money for them.  It was funny and interesting at the same time – for kids.  He also talked about his education process, making good grades, and getting into university. While this was more applicable to the kids in school – he was still getting across the point of striving to be the best. This guy went to a university on scholarship to study mass communications. I’m not sure how many of these kids will be able to achieve what he has – but I was happy to have someone in front of them encouraging them to at least try to be the best that they could be.  The program manager had come in even though it was his day off, because he wanted to see how the visitor was interacting with the kids.  He seemed pretty satisified with the way it turned out. And those kids were so well attentive that it actually surprised me! You’d never see them and think that they were kids from the street. I don’t think I could have planned it better if I had thought of inviting a photographer! It was such a nice surprise.


2 Responses to “Workshop Days 3-5 :: Prints, Narratives, & Guest Photographer”

  1. TJ says:


    Amazing, i am glad it worked out so well and being able to get a local photographer to come, that is just perfect! I hope you are going to do more of these, it really seems to be a hit and i just love how you are helping these children to tell their stories and bring awareness to what is going on there. You are such a blessing to them.

    The photos are fantastic as usual.


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