Shooting Environmental Portraits

This one-day workshop harnessed two powerful resources for rebuilding Libya: students and photojournalism. Small World News partnered with 1Libya, a Tripoli-based NGO working on civil society, communications and media development, to host the workshop.

The 12 university student participants brought loads of enthusiasm and creative energy. This generation of Libyan has grown up on the Internet and Facebook. Their ideas about photography are very sophisticated and they immediately understood photography’s power to “talk” about issues important to the country on the eve of its first democratic election.

The morning discussion focused on telling stories with images. The best photos illustrate both subject and context. They relay emotion and energy through peak action and careful composition. We looked at examples of famous work as well as the work of students from programs where I have taught in New York City. Most of the participants had surprisingly sophisticated equipment but little experience with using it on settings other than AUTO. We spent a lot of time talking basic camera tech. We also talked about how and where young Libyans can get work published outside of Libya.

In the afternoon participants went out to shoot. There assignment: An environment portrait. Meaning, portrait that contains information that tells us something about how the subject is and what they do. It was interesting to see how students interpreted the assignment. Some chose to take on social issues such as immigrant poverty. Others chose to showcase examples of traditional Libyan culture.

In the late afternoon we reviewed their work. Some of the best photos are here. They illustrate a cross section of ideas about what and who Libya is and perhaps what it will be come as this generation assumes responsibility for the country.

John Smock, Small World News


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