Getting students into the picture

A fascinating new photography education programme introduced right across County Longford aims to create better visual awareness among the students.

A fascinating new photography education programme introduced right across County Longford aims to create better visual awareness among the students.

The Midland College of Photography, a partnership between Longford County Council Arts Office and County Longford VEC Adult Education Office established to promote the development of photography, has taken photography education into Longford secondary schools.

Speaking to the Leader, County Arts Officer, Fergus Kennedy explained, “Our objective in introducing this programme is to develop a student’s visual awareness, to spark their interest in digital photography, to point interested students towards careers in the burgeoning photography and digital multimedia industry and to encourage students to develop an interest in a positive and enjoyable pastime.”

County Longford VEC Adult Education provided the necessary camera equipment and the County Arts Office supported the appointment of local Longford photographer Shelley Corcoran as Photographer in Residence.

Shelley is a BA Fine Art (Photography) graduate from the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology. She has established her own photography practice in Longford, works with the local media and has extensive teaching experience.

The transition year students in five secondary schools are actively involved in the programme.

The schools stretch from Moyne Community School and Cnoc Mhuire Granard in the north of the county through Templemichael Community College and St. Mel’s College in Longford town, to the Mercy Convent Ballymahon in the south of the county.

Each school receives a two hour visit once a week from the photographer in residence during which she works with the students to train them to develop their visual awareness and their powers of observation, to understand the physical mechanics of the digital camera and to understand the techniques of portrait, still life and landscape photography.

“The main benefit for the students would be to create a better visual awareness. I do all the technical elements of photography with them, but the main goal would be to make them more visually aware of their surroundings and every day life, and to put more of an artistic approach to photography,” said Shelley.

“Anyone can learn the technical elements of photography, but a good photograph takes having a photographer’s eye, being able to look at something different and put a different kind of angle on a photograph.”

Students are responding very positively to the programme not least because every opportunity is taken to take the class out into the open to photograph on-site.

“They are quite creative because of their age, and are willing to try everything and anything,” said Shelley.

Students are shown the additional skills and techniques of downloading digital images to a computer, creating files, storing and transmitting visual images and uploading images to dedicated school pages on the website which will be re-launched in the next few weeks.

The programme also saw Shelley bring students on a field trip recently. “We went to Gallery of Photography, the Photographic Archive and the Kerlin Gallery,” Shelley added.

According to County Arts Officer Fergus Kennedy, “Through this programme we hope to produce the next generation of Longford’s amateur photographer as well as possibly some professional photographers, and people who will go on to work in the burgeoning creative digital industries.”