Sharing my skills

I’ve recently started working as a lecturer on BTEC and HND photography courses at Swindon College. A job which I’m enjoying immensely.  Teaching was something I’d never considered before, until I started helping friends who were studying on the same BA Photography course as me.  I enjoyed helping them but most of all I enjoyed seeing them understand and use the skills that I’d shown them.

I now teach mainly 16 – 20-year-olds, which is enormously satisfying. Watching their confidence grow in both digital and analogue techniques.  The first thing they learn is how to do a photogram. It never fails to surprise me, how exciting the students find watching their first image appear in the developing tray.  They are genuinely delighted and usually end up with a whole range of images that they have produced by themselves.

After that, they go on to printing from negatives and then learn sandwiching techniques.  Most of the time, around half of the class will choose to shoot their final piece on 35mm film and print in the darkroom.  There are a range of 35mm film cameras that they can borrow from the college and we use Ilford 35mm film and print on Ilford MG RC.  At this stage, I don’t go too much into the multigrade system as I just want them to enjoy printing in the darkroom without worrying too much about varying the contrast.  Without having to worry about the technical issues, they are free to explore their creativity more, this produces some amazing ideas and images and I love seeing the final results.

Lake scene by Jo Gennard shot on ILFORD b&w film

Shot on HP5+ film and printed on MGRC Satin

Another positive about starting with film, is that it encourages them to think about what they’re photographing before clicking the shutter.  Students know that they only have 24 shots and that unlike digital, it has to be right in camera first.  They have to be confident that they’re going to have enough correctly exposed and composed images to work with.

I worry about the future of the printed photograph.  My dissertation for my degree was based on our need to constantly photograph everything and how this is going to impact on our memories of events in the future.  To cut a long story very short… my research suggested, that if we carry on photographing at the same rate we are now, not only will we not pay attention to the things that we are capturing, but we won’t have any printed photographs to use as an aide-memoire in years to come, sitting around looking at the family album will become a thing of the past.  Of course, there will be thousands of images, but they’ll all be kept digitally and with technology changing and upgrading at its present rate, our current methods of storage may well become obsolete….a bit like the floppy disk!

Black and white image shot on ILFORD HP5+ film

Making photographs is more than just about capturing a moment. It’s about ensuring that those moments are still available in the future.  For me, this is what teaching is about. Inspiring a new generation of film photographers to ensure that this medium stays alive and well for many years to come.

All images ®Joanne Gennard