Finding Beauty in Nablus

From our very first lesson, the women in my TWG Photography class have been characterized above all by their energy. They are always excited to see the day’s photography tips and the accompanying example photos; to learn English; and to get cameras in their hands and practice what they’ve learned. Photo for Blog 9 - Do'a El Saqa

But on this day, they’re even more excited than usual. It’s the culmination of all the work they’ve done over the course of the session: in front of the class, each woman presents a collection of her ten best photos, organized around a central theme like light, nature, women at TYO, or contrast. After many hours of lesson and many practice photographs, it’s now the women’s chance to present their work and talk about their own ideas and inspirations.

Photo for Blog 9 - Manal Sawalmeh

Just within the TYO building and courtyard, the women found dozens of dozens of great subjects—and, even more importantly, dozens of different ways to interpret and photograph those same subjects. Over the course of the semester, we had spent a great deal of time on some of the foundational rules of photography: the rule of thirds, angle, perspective, lines, balance, light, and more. But the single most important rule was to trust your own instincts and to have the courage to take the photo you want to take, regardless of the rules or conventions. As a teacher, watching the women develop this courage was the most rewarding outcome of the class. In our first weeks, the women were tentative photographers, afraid to do anything wrong and constantly running over to me to seek input on their photos. Now, in front of me and all their classmates, the women are confidently presenting their work, talking about why they chose to follow or ignore a certain rule, and gracefully answering questions about the camera settings they used or what they saw in a certain subject.

After the presentations ended, the women gathered around to look at the photos again, or to show me photos they have recently taken on their cell phones using techniques learned in our class. Before our first class, I worried that the lessons I would teach the women would be of little use outside the context of TYO, where few women have access to digital cameras. But the energy and enthusiasm of the women has convinced me otherwise—and I have no doubt that they will continue to benefit from what they’ve learned, both about photography and about themselves, long after our class has ended.


Alex is an intern at TYO in Nablus