FROM FLAGSHIP CARTAGENA: EYES WIDE OPEN

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Follow along the 100cameras team during Flagship Project Cartagena. This post was written from the field by 100cameras teammate, Lydia Billings, as a personal reflection from the class field trip to a mangrove by way of boat. This trip was held after students learned the introduction of composition and photography storytelling techniques at the beginning of our curriculum. 


This week we’re in La Boquilla, a small community outside Cartagena, Colombia teaching 25 amazing kids how to use cameras to share their stories with the world.

We took a field trip to a mangrove. in all honesty, most of us were expecting a swamp, but this was something else altogether. In 8 boats (5 people in each) we were guided through tree-canopied canals for an hour.

In my boat were 4 boys: Heiner, Jose Luis, Jesus, and Estevan. They’re all under 11, so you can guess how energetic things felt. Their cameras never had a moment’s rest. Photos were snapping left and right. They stood up and sat down. They shouted when spotting crabs and oysters, pointing out beautiful colors and creatures. The boat rocked from side to side. We passed by a pack of stray dogs, an overturned boat, a fisherman tending his net.

Eyes wide open the entire time.

About halfway through the ride I pulled Jesus into my lap and let him share my camera. I kept the strap around my neck for safety, pulled the viewfinder up to his eye, and put his finger on the shutter button, “Aqui”. He went wild.

Click click click click click - non stop, rapid fire shooting. Click click click. Barely looking at what was in the shot. Click click. He was addicted.

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I decided to let Jose Luis have a turn. They swapped seats and he plopped in my lap, the camera strap around both our necks. “Aqui.”

Click click click click click - non stop, rapid fire shooting. Click click click. Barely looking at what was in the shot. Click click. He was addicted.

 100cameras student, José Luis. 

Next was Heiner.

Click click click click click - non stop, rapid fire shooting. Click click click. Barely looking at what was in the shot. Click click. He was addicted.

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I don’t need to tell you what happened. Estevan’s turn was just as hyperactive as the first three had been.

I took my camera back and had them return to their point-and-shoot cameras. We all observed and listened and shot for several minutes.

 100cameras student, Estevan. 

I decided to give them each another turn. Instilling a bit of thoughtfulness into this round, I told them “Cinco mas fotos”. Only 5 more photos. That’s it. Five.

After a brief moment of disappointment, they each became more present than I’ve seen so far this week. They paused. They looked around. They contemplated what to photograph, rather than firing off endless shots of nothing and everything.

The sun beat down hot on us until we snaked back inside the shade of the mangrove trees. The water rippled gently.

This second round, they didn’t take pictures. They made photographs.

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