Capella State High School Workshop

9 September 2015

About 40 minutes drive north of Emerald is the small Queensland town of Capella. It was here at the Capella State High School that the most recent My Space/Our Place workshop took place on 9 September. With 22 Year 9 and 10 Visual Arts students in attendance, there was quite a shy feel to the group to begin with, but eventually they opened up to talk about their interest in art, as well the lack of interesting things that happen in their town which they can take influence and inspiration from. The students were shown works by Tasmanian photographer Ricky Maynard and a discussion followed regarding the artist's relationship to their own environment and how that could be harnessed to make art. After studying a few of Maynard's black and white photographs from Tasmania made in 2005, many of the students began to appreciate that you don't need action and lots of things happening to make thought provoking and interesting photography. It was with this in mind that the students then went outside on to their school grounds to make their photographs.  

Also discussed was Max Dupains' iconic photograph, Sunbaker (1937), which was very well re-appropriated by two workshop students, with a poignant rural twist on the image. Considering that the students were not permitted to leave school grounds to make their photographs, they frequently turned the cameras on each other, posing and role playing to involve a human element into their photographs.

It is not uncommon for teenagers, especially in regional and rural areas, to become easily bored with their immediate surroundings. Small towns in regional Australia often find it hard to stay alive, and the Central Highlands Shire of Queensland is no exception. For Sale signs are often seen in business windows and in front of houses and farms, the space out this way is vast, and the big sky envelopes the hot, dry landscape as far as they eye can see. It is understandable how kids and teenagers can easily feel trapped by this space. Photography, as well as other art forms, can provide students and adults alike, with a purpose to engage with their environment, to reveal what it is like out here and the conditions which they face. On a more personal level, photography and the arts can also help people to express how they see themselves in their environment, and as part of it. When the camera is used as a tool for self-expression, authorship and ownership is given to people's own story, which can help boost self-confidence and empowerment. Access to the arts is one way in which students can develop these very important attributes.

Photography Tip: It is easy to think the 'grass is always greener' in that it is more exciting to be somewhere other than where you are. If you feel that there is nothing to photograph around you, start by simply pointing the camera at anything and make a picture; the sky, clouds, the grass, lines on the road, a fence. Look at your pictures on the back of the camera and investigate what the pictures look like compared to what it looks like in real life. Think about how to use your environment to make photographs that says something about you, think of using the timer on your camera and doing self portraits looking away from the camera (like Ricky Maynard), and try different settings on your camera, like the black and white setting. Just remember, there is always something right in front of you that you can use to make photographs and art.

Capella State High School Photographers: Shyanne Forsyth, Jessica Armstrong, Jessica Stocks, Tamika Boon, Karly Bradshaw, Clayton Parry, Bailey Beard, Lincoln Fleming, Locky Perkins, Mikaela Krebs, Brooke Patton, Paige Pearce, Caitlyn Kennedy, Tanisha Hadley, Alex Hugo, Hudson Jeffrey, Lydiah McLean, Lauren Hugo, Maddie White, Keely Coburn, Chelsea Stone.