There was once a young girl who encountered devastating obstacles. She was hungry and her father was sick; she was pulled out of school and pushed into labor; she was forced into a child marriage with a husband who drank and abused her; she gave birth to a baby, and struggled again with money. But despite this continuing hardship, the girl stayed strong. When it was suggested to her that she fix her money woes by giving her own daughter away as a child bride, the girl said no. She stood up to the forces that hurt her, allowing her daughter to finish her education and live a happy life. This is the photo-story created by students at West Marredpally Girls Government High School for their first project of the semester.
This week, from the midst of chaos, emerged many vibrant photo stories. My class at West Marredpally was the one I didn’t see coming. Certainly, the girls are always excited and pleased with TMS; they jumped into storyboarding and script-writing, and constantly heckle me for more and more technical experience – but I also always feel we are about to careen off-track. Perhaps it is because the project took root in this wild soil that it grew so strong. The story is solid, simple and poignant. The voiceover is clear. The settings and costumes are well-designed, and the photos are gorgeous.
The perceived wildness caused me to be a more prepared teacher. Unlike other classes, West Marredpally did a “pre-production” photo shoot: the girls shot the photos they would take in full costume the next day. At the end of the session, we critiqued their images on the computer. When it came time to take the real photos, the students were familiar with their roles, and had a solid idea of how to photograph each scene.
These students had full control of the story from the beginning. The original writing prompts I gave them elicited very little response, and it was only when I opened it up entirely that the students jumped in. The topics from that original brainstorming session provided fodder for all the directions our story took, and also informed our next video.