COLLABORATOR PROFILE: 1 Camera 1000 Smiles
On Friday 4th March 2011 I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard at his Urban Artistry photography studio in Collingwood. Due to fly out to Bali early in the next week, Richard generously made time to answer questions and share his vision and goals for the 1 camera 1000 smiles project. He speaks with warmth, passion and spirit about how it all started and where the project is at right now. I was specifically interested in finding out what type of support the project needs to move forward and how people can contribute. He also shares his thoughts about the power of photography to create change and talks about his passion for teaching/education and his interest in environmental issues, particularly recycling and redistribution of resources. Finally he tells us what it is about this project that makes him smile!
Below is PART 1 of a written transcript of the voice recorded conversation.
Angie: Richard can you tell us about your vision for the 1 camera 1000 smiles project?
Richard: I guess the 1 camera 1000 smiles project is about sharing, education, it’s about development; it’s about waste, the environment, progression, the change of the world and the world changing. It’s about western development, underdeveloped countries, overdeveloped countries and trying to create some sort of harmony and balance in between. It comes about you know, photography is a powerful medium and pretty much it produces change and alters the course in the world. It makes people accountable in so many ways as well, it’s been used to put ideas forward, to put expressions forward, to publicize, advertise, to create, capture and so forth. So it’s a very very very powerful medium.
Ah and the project itself, it’s about giving people a little bit of autonomy and power for themselves and that’s through the means of education, which I think is by far the ultimate in knowhow and power, it’s about creating autonomy and giving people confidence and so forth coz it puts things on par and it opens up new ways of sharing ideas and information. So in a nutshell …. is that a nutshell ? or no… it’s a big walnut perhaps, coz it’s got a few twists in there but there’s a lot involved, it’s not simply about collecting a bunch of cameras and taking them into developing countries and giving them out, it not about handouts that’s for sure. It’s about getting in there amongst it with people who are in need and trying to give them a bit of hope and a bit of knowhow.
Angie: So how did the project come about and where is at right now?
Richard: Well the process is in its infancy, it was instigated about 10 months ago. It’s a slow process, you know, working in the tropics, working from halfway between Australia and Bali and travelling in between and so forth. But it just started with a bit of an idea because I used to work as an educator and a photographer. And it started off with a bit of a passion of mine to just take those skills sets and utilize it because I wanted to share that. I haven’t always been a teacher , it’s been only 3 or four years but there’s something about teaching that’s really self indulgent, self rewarding and you know, not only do I teach, I learn, I experience and have the opportunity to speak, and as you can see I love speaking! So it kind of gives me a platform for that.
Angie: You take cameras into remote villages and run workshops with the kids. What do they do with the cameras? Tell us about your experiences with that and what the response is like?
Richard: The idea is to collect a whole host of disused cameras from Australia, so we’ve been doing that along the way. The first workshop I held though, I used my own professional equipment. I had professional expensive photographic equipment, which I’m handing out to these kids and they’re walking around with these expensive cameras around their necks. Which is quite a sight, it’s a bit of a buzz for me too.
With workshops, ok so what’s been happening with the kids so far, we’ve been going up there, just giving them some small educational introductions to cameras. We’ve done some demonstrations we’ve shown them samples of photography, showing them what a camera can do, how the camera works, just showing them how to use it, through demonstration. Taking photos of them, with them, giving them the opportunity to use the camera.
We go up to a town in Bali, in the region of Kintamani which is in a mountain area. We go to a village called Blandingan which is one of Bali’s most historic villages, pretty much untouched, very untouched. Apparently and I don’t know if this is true or not, but I like telling this story, it makes me feel a little bit special, they say I’m the first westerner to spend a night overnight in the town. It’s a very basic sort of village but it is beautiful…absolutely beautiful. Most of the houses are 12 post houses, some of them with dirt floors. Ah just the fields, the village lifestyle, the community the whole sense of it, it’s pretty amazing and it just fills you full of joy and your senses sort of get sparked up when you’re in that environment. When you watch the kids and the families in the villages and how they make do and how they operate on a daily basis, that alone is a workshop. It’s a workshop for myself via them.
My Bahasa, my Indonesian is not all that great so I try and do things by gesture and I have an interpreter as well. So there’s definitely a language barrier but the kids are so clever. They tend to have a complete grasp of it, learning things quickly. In teaching them about concepts such as aperture and shutter speed even through gesture, you can see by the expressions on their faces that they’re getting it and if they don’t get it all they get at least 70% of it and that alone is rewarding. So I know I’ve got a captive highly astute audience that given some time and some nurturing, some energy are going to excel at whatever they do.
Now these kids may not necessarily want to be photographers per se, and they don’t necessarily have to be. But it just gives them a little bit of hope, you know a little bit of knowledge and knowhow and it brings them up to speed with things and I think there are a lot of benefits to learning how to use a camera. And just for the expressions on their faces I think that’s enough. The kids receive it well and the village adults receive it warmly.