What’s it all about?

A few weeks ago I went on a scouting mission to find new locations for photography workshops…. No… Wait… Scrap that last bit…

I’ve always called them photography workshops because they are workshops in which the participants take photographs but that’s not really what they’re about at all. They’re confidence workshops which happen to use a camera as the means of delivering that confidence.

I have more than 20 years’ experience in guiding disadvantaged adults and children to better themselves. I’m an educator but it really doesn’t matter what the subject is, my special super-power is empowering people to help themselves. Friends and colleagues call it The Mel Effect. I don’t know what I call it; I just do what I do because I know it works and it’s what people need.

For the last five years I have been delivering workshops using cameras* across South Wales for various bodies and organisations. Previous client groups include mental health charities, drugs support, physical disabilities, schools, the local children’s development centre at one hospital, the Traumatic Brain Injury Service at the other hospital. I’ve worked tirelessly with community groups, recently delivering a programme of workshops for Communities 1st North East Cluster in Swansea. Tomorrow will be delivering a workshop for Communities First Afan in Croeserw. My workshops work particularly well with those previously disaffected by the idea of ‘education’ and have been popular with family and parenting groups.


My classes are designed to inspire participants to discover more about themselves and make a positive difference to their own well-being. Through a series of tasks I encourage my students to experience their local environment in innovative ways. Digital photography can be a powerful tool for people who find it difficult to express themselves through normal means of communication, or have undergone a life-changing experience and are currently discovering a new way of living. Using a camera works far quicker than traditional therapeutic arts based activities because the results are instant. Most people know a good photograph when they see it and aren’t discouraged by other pictures on the camera which haven’t worked as well. Knowing there’s a good picture created by you, for you, because of you, brings a boost in self-esteem and gives an alternative visual ‘voice’; a positive outlet for emotions and ideas.  

The focus is always on the positive and on the individual’s own personal development in generating an awareness of what is new around them. Photography can often be seen as scientific or technical but in my workshops these are secondary skills to the experience of being creative and communicating visually. My workshops encourage participants discover more about themselves, to experiment, to build up their own confidence levels through how they are feeling in the world around them. It’s less about pictures and cameras and more about self-expression and self-determination. Previous participants have found the confidence to better themselves through more traditional courses and have been empowered to change their lives for the better.

 

Students become tourists in their own back yards with any photograph shared being a postcard representative of their travels. They leave no stone unturned in looking for inspiration around them. In a digital world where everyone is now a photographer it isn’t hard for people to find their own strengths using a camera. 

 

As well as learning basic photography skills, participants gain life skills. They learn how to work with others, communicate effectively, self-discipline, stress management, mindfulness, building positive relationships, problem solving, renewing self-identity, goal setting. It’s all there through sharing photographs they’ve taken. There’s no such thing as a bad photograph. A good photograph is any photograph with a good philosophy behind it and I encourage talk about that photograph, that philosophy, that way of thinking so that participants can discuss their ideas and discoveries about themselves. Since the emphasis is always on discussing the picture, participants don’t feel self conscious in talking about what they think. The therapeutic benefits are profound. Participants find themselves gaining the confidence to better themselves through employment and education after the workshop is over and often feel more able to deal with life’s difficulties. Whatever they may be.


Sure, I provide a
 bank of digital cameras for use during class time. I show people how to use a camera, take photographs etc. There’s full learning resources, course delivery, tuition, and guidance to all participants. I have an amazing assistant experienced in mentoring as well as photography who is also there to help out. The classes are never more than 12 people so the atmosphere is always friendly. It looks like a photography workshop but that’s not how it feels. Often participants express surprise at how the course pans out. See for yourself on my Testimonials page what has been said by recent participants. It’s never what they expect from a photography course but then I guess that’s maybe that’s because it’s a confidence building course which happens to use cameras.

 

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Which way now?


*workshops with cameras doesn’t equal photography workshops. Really it doesn’t.
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