Working with JMA: An overview

As part of the ‘Whitley For Real’ scheme targeting youth aspirations a photography club has been established.

The photography project has been running since early July following on from the home build project. The classes are run by Paul Alan (an art and photography teacher at JMA) and supported by the Whitley Researchers, University and Council Representatives. The photography group meets on Friday afternoons from 3pm at JMA and primarily helps students improve their photography by looking into things such as ‘what makes a good photograph’ and the different styles and interpretations that can be gained from a single photo.

With a group of 7-8 students we have looked into their own school and found areas that they do and don’t like, places where they feel safe and areas they spend the most time in. Within that we have also covered basic camera using skills, how to take a good photograph and key tips and advice to make sure you include in images. Each task has been undertaken with enthusiasm with each student fully immersing themselves in the task.


Each week the previous project is discussed and analysed and without fail this has been done with a sense of pride and in a fun way that almost shows off their work. Students have been keen to volunteer themselves and friends work that they thought was strong (and almost wanted to show off their work and boost other student’s moral).

Images that have been discussed so far have been:

  • Rocks in wire which surrounds the school giving and explained how it looks “ugly”
  • Huge gates of the school open, with children leaving
  • Images of the playing fields “where I can be myself”
  • Danger, keep out signs- explained not to be respected and we were told “everyone just goes there anyway”
  • Dance studio with light filtering in through the windows- showing sense of freedom and a place to be creative
  • Sports hall- which is used a lot by students for many different reasons


Then the students were set off on a new challenge by John where they had to find a fixed spot in which they could stand and take 3 photos of the school. They were then given the cameras and given a quick recap on how to use them and given more advanced tips such as how and when to use the different functions on the cameras.

Bethany and I then followed the students outside onto the grounds and given a mini tour from two of the younger girls to where they had taken their photos. They showed us the sports hall which was being used to coach basketball and they spoke enthusiastically about the rock climbing wall present. It was in this area that the students chose to take their photos as the park opposite the school was visible from the balcony, additionally along with the sports club list. They then showed us the dance studio (which was another image showed from last week).

We then went back into the classroom where the images were saved onto the computer and briefly discussed were it was encouraging to see that the students took “funny” photos of each other, showing the friendly and informal atmosphere, they perceive these meetings/ the photography project to have.

The following week an A-Z project was set where the students had to find objects within the landscape that represented the letters in the alphabet. A JMA Vs Reading Uni competition developed and it was a race to see who could complete the challenge to the best ability.

Work was set over the summer to look into how your eye travels over a photo and take images that would force you to look in a certain line of travel. This work will then be reviewed the first week back where we will look into how students feel about their community.


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