Teaching documentary photography to the youth of Kliptown, South Africa

The Kliptown Photo Project is dedicated to creating opportunities for the high school students of Kliptown, South Africa, one of the oldest informal settlements in Soweto, where residents live with up to four generations of their families in one or two room shacks without electricity, running water or public services.

In July 2014 we went to Kliptown and worked with one American photographer and three young African photographers to run a week long photo workshop for 15 students. We believe that learning photography is a way to foster creativity and connection. We wanted our students to show us the world through their eyes and gain skills, confidence, and agency through the process.

We provided digital cameras for each student and worked with them in the classroom, the community, and the computer lab, teaching them everything from lighting and composition to how to photograph strangers and upload their photos to facebook. The students were hard working, enthused, and hungry for knowledge; it was an exciting and powerful week for all participants.

An exhibition of the photographs taken by the students and their teachers took place a month after the workshop at Mashumi Art Projects in Soweto and was a great critical success. The students were able to see their work in the gallery, which was an empowering and thrilling experience for them. Photos are also available for sale on this website.  Proceeds from the exhibition and sale of photographs will go to the Kliptown Youth Program to further their educational and arts programs in the community.

Browse through our store -- you can purchase photos taken by our students and instructors to help sustain the project or you can simply make a donation to sustain the project. 

Ulwimi ululodwa alonelanga, which is a Zulu phrase meaning, "One language is never enough."

Prep Week for the Kliptown Photo Project

We've been amazingly busy, fortunate and inspired these first few days at the KYP. We've explored a bit of Soweto, worked out some kinks at the KYP, seen an amazing lecture, and met our photographers. Phew! 

It's been a crazy week for us. We did so much prep work prior to arriving in Soweto that things are falling into place, but we have hit some glitches. Today, we purchased a printer for the computer lab. We can use it to print photos during the week of the workshop and, also, the printer will remain with the KYP computer lab for the kids to use to print photos, homework and whatever else they may need to do.

Of course, Julie and I unpacked the printer, started hooking it up and realized that it came without a connection cord to run between the computer and the printer. Which is how it inevitably goes, right? So, back into Zongi's car and back to the mall. (I think I can speak for myself, Linda, Heather and Julie when I say that we've spent more time in malls in the past four days than any of us have in the past four years.) 

We do have some lofty ideas and ambitions, we are hoping to plant the seed with some of our students, we know that we, the instructors and directors, will be enriched by this experience; but at the same time it is work -- full of details, complications, administrative tasks, climbing around to connect computers and unexpected problems.

Yesterday, we went to the Sophiatown Restaurant and had lunch with Jerry Obakeng Gaegane and Patrick Selemani, who will be two of our instructors. Afterwards, Heather had a chance to return to Museum Africa to tour 'The Rise and Fall of Apartheid' Exhibition and also to punk around Market Photo Workshop with Jerry. She even saw David Goldblatt in the parking lot there.

Tonight, we will meet Tila Nomvula Mathizerd, who rounds out our roster of instructors.

After that, we'll head over to Mashumi Art Projects for an opening. Mashumi Art Projects is in the Orlando West neighborhood of Soweto. MAP will exhibit the work created by our students and our instructors. Just around 2 km from Kliptown, we're hopeful that our students and the KYP staff will be able to make it to the show. Zanele Mashumi, the founder and curator of MAP is planning to open the Kliptown Photo exhibition on July 25th, a mere three weeks from our end date. Sadly, we can't make it back to Soweto for that, but at least we get to take in a show in the space, so that we can imagine the opening of the KPP work. 

Below are Heather, Patrick and Jerry wrapping up our lunch meeting.