During October and November 2009 at the Batahola Norte Cultural Center in Managua, Nicaragua, 10 boys and girls had the opportunity to see their world with new eyes--through the lens of a camera. Not only did they learn how to use the camera and about the basic elements of photography, they learned how to express themselves through their images. Melissa Engle, of Chambersburg, Pa., a 2009/2010 participant in MCC's Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program, taught the class twice a week as part of her 11-month service assignment at the cultural center. Engle is a former MCC staff photographer.
Using point-and-shoot film cameras, students photographed different themes such as family, self-portrait and community and were encouraged to incorporate creative and reflective writing about their photos. Because the children in the class come from families with limited resources, taking photographs that they could keep and share with their family meant a lot to them. Most said their favorite theme was family.
They also learned that sometimes mistakes can create interesting results, such as this double exposure self-portrait taken by Karelia Pravia, 11.
"I had never had a camera in my hands before," says Karelia. "It felt quite impressive!"
Students chose a favorite photo for an arts exhibition at the cultural center and gave it a title and a description. The following images were displayed in the exhibition.
“The Mysterious Boy” This self-portrait was taken in my home. I stood behind the guayaba and tamarind trees to seem mysterious. I like this photo because it was taken well and I can see myself. I like to take photos because it helps me and when I grow up I want to be a photographer. Photo by Anderson Sandino, 11.
“The Marvelous Mirror” This is my mom and she is thinking about food. She likes to tell stories to children and she is very loving. The mirror is marvelous because you can see my mom in it. Photo by Josseling Jarquín, 10.
“Education is Very Important” I took this photo when I was taking a walk and I found it very interesting. Light is falling on the boy’s face and he is reading there because he can’t read in the shade. I like this photo because I talked to the boy a lot and he told me that he couldn’t read in the shade because he couldn’t see the small writing. I always say that all things are possible. Photo by Karelia Pravia, 11.
“Happiness” I took this photo from a worm’s eye point of view in my house. I like this photo because it is strange. My cousin looks like a giant monster. She is jumping and this represents happiness. I like how the camera can capture such strange things. I have learned to take pictures using different angles, points of view and other strange things. Photo by Moises Hernandez, 11.
“The Mysterious Shadows” This photo is mysterious because it seems like there is an alien in the shadows of my sister. There is direct light because there are lots of shadows. I took this photo of my sister at my house in the afternoon. I like the photo because it is very exciting and mysterious. I like to take photos because it is lots of fun. Photo by Junielka Orozco, 11.
“Fear” This self-portrait was taken in my room. There is lots of darkness and it captures the emotion of fear. It is cold and scary. Photography teaches me many things like how to take photos and how to capture emotions like fear because I am shown with my arms wrapped around myself like I am afraid. I like the camera because it can capture beautiful moments. Photo by Abraham Oredeñana, 11.
“I Love My World” I love my country and the swing that carries me. I was in the park and I wanted to show my happiness. I took the photo because I felt very free. My feelings were peaceful and I felt good. I like to take photos in the park because I feel very free and peaceful. Photo by Ramsaliu Rivas, 10.
“The Angry Girl” I took this photo in front of my house in the neighborhood of Batahola Norte. My sister is serious because the sun is shining in her face. We were playing in the sand and she gave me the idea to take a photo of her looking serious. My sister is tall and her name is Massiel and she is 8 years old. I took the photo from an eye level point of view. I like to take pictures because it is my preferred art medium. Photo by Jubelkis Jarquín, 10.
“Boys in a Lost Boat” I took this photo in a puddle in front of the cultural center. I am in a boat with my best friend. I like the photo because it appears that the boys are ghosts in a boat. I took it from a bird’s eye point of view and it is a self-portrait of my reflection. Photo by Juan Jimenez, 10.