Alessandra McAllister is currently on her year abroad in Mexico, running a photography project with street children, which she is writing about on her blog. The photo on the right shows La Vía, Tasqueña, the home of a community of street children that she visits on a weekly basis, wedged between an overpass and the metro rail. The aim is to build relationships with teenagers on the street through regular visits, games of Uno and football.
Here Alessandra tells us how the project came about – and you can see some examples of the children’s photography below.
Last March I sat in the Casa Alianza office in Kettering, pausing briefly before answering the question, “What do you actually want to do with the children?” Several activities crossed my mind: Yoga? I don’t know anything more than that tree position. English? Practical, but it’s been done before. Cooking? Well, I could teach them how to boil pasta and roast a couple of peppers… And then before the hesitation got too long to be excusable, “Photography!”
Since then I have found myself holding auctions to raise money to buy photography equipment, writing proposals, negotiating with various companies and institutions (Aon Insurance Mexico, the Sony photo school in Mexico City, El Centro Cultural de España en México, El Centro de la Imagen de la Ciudad de México), meeting Mexican photographers and, the hardest part, explaining the science behind photography in Spanish. In a short space of time, this year abroad has taught me how to deal with many a situation, provided me with an extensively longer list of life skills, and helped me form some idea of what I would like to do when I leave university.
Since SOCLAS donated £300 to the project (thank you, Prof Forsdick!) I would like it to be more involved in the project’s progress. Hence, I invite you to read the blog (www.streetchildrenphotography.wordpress.com) and when the exhibitions do happen, SOCLAS will have its own profile and invitations will be handed out all round.
The most challenging parts have been adapting to the mañana attitude (which I quickly discovered is no myth) and motivating the teenagers still living on the streets to participate in the project. However, despite this, images have been generated and below are some of the results.
David series: This photograph was taken by one of my students, Eduardo, 17, who lives at Casa Alianza. We did a portrait session using masks and face paints so that the participants wouldn’t feel so self conscious standing in front of the camera. The photograph was edited by another of my students, David, 15, who I discovered really enjoyed using Photoshop and wants to be a graphic designer. He’s agreed to make a series of these for me.
This was taken by one of my students, Alejandro Fransisco, 13, who lives at Casa Alianza. We went out to photograph the local landscape around the home to capture some of the boys’ daily life and make postcards. This is their favourite playground.
This was taken by one of my participants who lives on the Street, 16 year old David. This was the second time I’d leant him my SLR camera. It’s a good way to build trust and it means that we can walk around and chat. This time we went up the Revolution monument so he could practice using the camera. He figured out all the settings on manual and has proved to be an enthusiastic photographer. This is a picture of our reflections.