My name is JP Pullos, and I’m the Photography Education Coordinator for 100cameras. I’m also a professional photographer, and I run a business creating and selling instructional videos for beginner photographers. One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I tend to approach everything I’m up to very, very seriously. I’ve always thought of this as a good thing but, since I started teaching kids for 100cameras, I’ve found myself shedding my serious side and approaching my life in a much more playful way. You see, when you find yourself giving a camera to a 14-year old boy or girl who is touching a camera for the very first time and you recognize the bubbling excitement in their eyes, it becomes virtually impossible to not take that sense of wonder and discovery into other areas of your life.
I’ve had many moving experiences since I began teaching for 100cameras but the most profound happened on our third day of teaching classes in Madurai, India. Madurai was one of the locations where we taught kids who were using a camera for the very first time and we were navigating a significant language barrier. Explaining even the basic functions on a camera is hard enough when both teacher and student speak the same language but it really felt impossible since I found myself teaching primarily through pantomime and pointing. I was shocked when two students stopped taking pictures for a moment to show me a handful of functions they had discovered on the cameras we had given them, functions I wasn’t aware of. These kids, through the sheer force of their eagerness to learn and their sense of play, had taken something complicated and had made it very, very simple. Up until that day, I had held words and concepts up as the most important tools available to me as a teacher. Those students taught me that, even in the absence of a shared language, approaching a subject with excitement, playfulness and a willingness to discover was all that was required to learn something new. In fact, our 15 young students in Madurai took far less time to learn and master concepts like exposure, aperture and shutter speed than most adults take to do the same here in New York City, where I teach most weekends.
I’ve had the opportunity to personally talk with a handful of the kids we’ve taught after a good amount of time had passed since their classes with us. What struck me most was the sense of pride that each of our former students has not only in the images they created but in how much they contributed to their community as a result of the classes. I remember walking into the after-school program center in the Lower East Side to meet the students that had participated in the 100cameras classes years earlier and each of their faces lit up as Angela exclaimed that the money from the sale of their images had gone toward purchasing four desktop computers for the learning center. The kids were proud to have created images that were seen as valuable and, in turn, provided a much-needed resource for their community and peers.
We exist solely to be a model of empowerment. Take Danna for example, a student from our NYC project. Growing up on the Lower East Side, she comes from a family of nine brothers and sisters. After working hard against many obstacles to pursue her goals to get a college AA degree, she’s currently working at the after-school center and as a paraprofessional in a special needs pre-school while pursuing her career in Early Childhood Education.
Danna believes 100cameras has shown her how to express her thoughts and emotions and perspective with a different outlet.