How should we approach the challenge of developing not just the academic acumen of the next generation, but its creative power too? I started Snap Foundation to solve this very conundrum.
Formed through a love of photography and the desire to give disadvantaged children a voice, the idea is to unlock the creative potential of the next generation, one picture at a time. Back in 2013 when the concept was first being formulated it was all about finding an exciting project, helping others and involving local communities. But things really fell into place when we brought our first trial programme to South Africa the following year.
The need for an exciting way to educate and empower young children in the townships was very apparent. But the children’s passion, willingness to learn and genuine talent for photography shone through immediately and from that day on it has been our mission to keep the programme going, making it sustainable and stretching it right across Africa. Maybe even across the world.
We’ve grown to be comprised of a diverse community of photographers, creatives and volunteer teachers, who work with the Snap pupils to impart important new life skills through the medium of photography. The pupils range between the ages of nine and 15-years-old – it’s an honour to participate in fostering and bringing out their creativity, personalities and confidence at this crucial stage in their development. We want the Snap programme to both inspire and develop, by leveraging a tool (the humble camera lens) that some of the kids there wouldn’t typically have access to.
Our programmes rely on volunteers like Stacey, a senior photographer for a major online fashion website, who joined the Snap team this year. Stacey is one of the many volunteer photography professionals and gap year students who come from all over the world to get involved in our programmes. Teaching on a wide range of topics, they are all united by a desire to join in the adventure and experience a completely different world by immersing themselves in the lives of our pupils.
Our current programme in Port Elizabeth is being taught by photography students from America, China and the UK – all bringing their own ideas and experiences to the table. The pupils are focussed on discussing and illustrating current social issues in their community, as well as on becoming image makers for their schools by taking class portraits or covering sports events throughout the year.
One of our main aims is to build an online Snap network where children from all over the world can share photos and stories with each other highlighting what life is like for different communities, and hopefully educate the rest of the world in the process. This is the big plan but there is a lot of work to do to get there; internet at schools, computers in schools and so on. In the meantime, we will continue to get cameras into the hands of as many children as we can.