Woodberry Down Primary School – New Wave Federation

How much fun would it be to let a bunch of Year 5s turn professional portrait photographer for a day? Answer: a whole heap of fun!

The Premise:

I was asked to create a hands-on photographic project for Year 5 pupils at a local Hackney primary school, delivered in a one day in-school session.

Stage 1: The Practicalities

I kicked off the session with a brief overview of professional photography and a few examples of my work, which quickly developed into a celebrity Guess Who? as students tried to name the famous faces. During this, pupils got the chance to handle some of my vintage cameras and rolls of film – relics of a pre-digital age as unfamiliar as dinosaur bones to some of them (a roll of what, sir?). Next up was the main focus of the day: the hands-on portrait session. I set up a basic lighting rig and neutral background, fixed my camera firmly to a tripod, and in pairs the students took turns to pose and take portraits of each other, firing questions at me as they did.

The Studio Set-up

The Year 5 Photographers in action

Stage 2: Enter the Art Teacher

Pupils chose their preferred portrait, and I provided each student with an A4 black and white print on photographic paper. Their fabulous art teacher introduced them to the work of Mexican textile artist Victoria Villasana, who applies colourful embroidery to iconic black and white photographic portraits. Pupils learned how to embroider using a needle and colourful wool, and then set to work on their own portraits, highlighting areas with embroidery and achieving some amazing results!

Stage 3: The Inspiration

Victoria Villasana (born in Guadalajara, Mexico) is a textile artist, interested in history, culture and how people relate to each other in a fragmented post-digital world. After studying design at the ITESO University in Mexico, she moved to London, where she worked in the fashion industry. She started making embroidery collages on pictures as a hobby. Through pattern geometry and colour she weaves stories to express the resiliency and creativity of the human spirit. All images © https://victoriavillasana.com/

Stage 4: The Finale

An exhibition was organised, attended by parents and photographed by me on a return visit – I hope you enjoy the results. Props to the staff at Woodberry Down School for entertaining this fabulous creative project and to the art teacher for her embroidery tuition (and patience)…