Thursday, February 10, 2011

Social Photography

I'm so excited, and I have to tell you why . . . I am taking a photography course! And not just a plain old, run-of-the-mill everyday photography course. No, no! This is a social photography course. At first I was wondering whether that meant a "social" photography course, where we all get to be real good friends and take pictures of each other and our loved ones?

Instead, it turns out that it is a "social photography" course, in that our photos will be of some social value, meaning they will bear witness to various important issues and problems in the social fabric. Like poverty, illegality in its various forms, garbage in the streets, what to do with all the hordes of unemployed escorts  running rampant now that Berlusconi can't cavort with them secretly without everyone and his brother intercepting their phone calls and sms messages! Yeah, social issues, you get it . . .

Tuesday evening I went to the first of the 12 lessons being offered by a local group called Camera a Sud. The course objectives are to help each of us "discover, through our own sensibilities, how images can communicate ideas and cultures, projects and passions, and become the visual memory of our own times."

photo by: Camera a Sud
My husband, who knows both the photography teacher as well as another member of the association, told me to expect to find "alternative" people. Now, I just have to tell you that "alternative" is a word that has hounded me throughout my whole life. My mother and step-father were "alternative" types, choosing to live in communes, grow a long beard (him), wear long skirts (her), make our own clothes, recycle (kind of a radical idea back in the early '70s), eat vegetables from our own garden . . . I was even briefly a vegetarian at age 10.

In those days my mother sent me to "alternative" elementary schools. At one school "alternative" meant we just ran around in the woods all day and built the occasional geodesic dome. At another, things were a bit more structured, but run by two ex-Peace Corps volunteers who taught us how to play Wari, an ancient African board game, and cook peanut butter chicken (sounds odd, but you'd be surprised at how tasty it is).

Things were fairly mainstream for me for a while, until I chose an "alternative" graduate school in the late '80s. One with no grades and an emphasis on "experiential" learning. I found myself immersed in a familiar environment: beards and long skirts all over again. We spent the first week getting to know our classmates and professors by playing "cooperative games." Holding hands and running up and down the green hills of Vermont, you get the picture.

So, I was curious to check out these "alternative" provincial southern Italians. And what do you think I found?

Beards! Lots of beards, long beards, short beards, beginner beards, expert beards . . . but beards all around! I joked with my husband that growing a beard must be a requirement for membership in the association. No beard? Sorry, come back when you've got at least a 5 o'clock shadow, buddy!

But, curiously no long skirts. Hmmm. That will, no doubt, soon be remedied by the fact that this spring long skirts are in the fashion forecast.

But seriously . . . the first lesson went exceptionally well. The (bearded) instructor was kind, patient, clear and humorous. I was sooo glad about that, because as a teacher I expect a lot out of anyone who thinks they're going to teach me (aren't I terrible?), but Cosmo, with his long, purple flowered scarf and miserable head cold, was perfect.

We are starting from the very beginning with things like shutter speed and apertures. I'll keep you posted on how it goes week by week.


Couture Carrie said...

So fun, darling!
Good for you!


Dana said...

Oh, I'm so incredibly jealous of you! I wish I could enroll in your course. I hope you share the work on the blog, Saretta. Wonder if there is a Camera a Nord?

The description of "alternative" was interesting as well. It often seems that everyone here is so much the same . . . it wouldn't take much to be "alternative." Think the clowns with tattoos fit that bill? So, did that graduate school offer a degree? I'm currently looking for an "alternative" to this career . . .

Take Care,

LindyLouMac said...

Sounds interesting, looking forward to seeing some 'social photography' and maybe a few tips?

Anonymous said...

this sounds very interesting....maria

Saretta said...

I will definitely keep you posted!

Eleonora Baldwin said...

Brava Saretta, a wonderful project! I can't wait to see your photos, in the meantime do keep us posted on your learnings.

Patsy said...

Thank you. Saretta, only you can come up whit such things.Thanks again and good luck.

Francesca said...

This had me smile all the way through. The social photography concept sounds very interesting, capturing the side of life that needs fixing other than the perfect, beautiful and easy one! It's certainly alternative in many contexts, and is an idea that I'd love to embrace.

Amy @ babybabylemon said...

Wow! A social photography class sounds like such an interesting way to learn!