Beautiful Pictures

The first full week of spring classes is coming to a close here at TYO, and already there’s so much to talk about. I’m teaching a wide range of classes, from boys’ and girls’ soccer to advanced IT, conversational English, and photography. I’m enjoying all of my classes, and particularly getting to know my students and hearing their stories. But my most memorable class thus far has been photography with The Women’s Group (TWG). The photography class is twice a week, and we began this week by going over the rules of the class, getting to know each other, and taking an initial assessment to determine how much the women already know and how our time in the course can best be spent. There is a wide range of skill levels, but all of the women are excited about learning to use a camera; when I handed out cameras for the skills test of the initial assessment, all of the women lit up and couldn’t stop beaming.

Women from the TWG photography class practice their camera skills by taking portraits of each other in the classroom

Yesterday, in our second session, we talked about what makes a photograph good or bad. We looked at examples of famous photos, and I asked the women what they liked or didn’t like about each. A long and far-reaching class discussion ensued, with the women sometimes disagreeing about what was good or bad, but always bringing up good points. One word kept coming up: beautiful. But what does it mean for a photograph to be beautiful? we asked. Can any subject be beautiful, or only some? How much can the photographer do, and how much depends on circumstances beyond our control? What are the beautiful things in our lives that we may be overlooking as subjects for a photo?

At the end of the class, we put these questions into action. My translator Amani and I handed out cameras to each of the women, and they took portraits of each other to practice the basic skills of camera use, as well as how to frame a photo. After they had taken a few photos, each of the women came to the front of the class to show me their work, and they were all beaming as they showed me their photos. For all of the questions and debate that our discussion brought, the answers became clear once they had cameras in their hands: yes, a photographer could make beautiful images, and yes, they could be found in our lives, right here, all around us. I can’t wait to see what we find next.


Alex is a Spring 2013 Intern at TYO Nablus.