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Preteens learn photography skills in class

The first day, every one in the class was out of their comfort zone -- including the teacher. But all that changed by the end of eight weeks.

Louisa Hickman, a photographer with the McDuffie Arts Council, recently taught a photography class of preteens at the Thomson Boys and Girls Club.

"It was definitely hands-on because I'm not a teacher," Mrs. Hickman said. "I just told them to enjoy what they're doing and they can't do anything wrong."

There were five students in the weekly class -- Gabby Cain, Austin Dixon, Myesha Franklin, Shacoria Ramsey and Ta'Bria Wiley. They ended up taking 778 pictures using Fisher Price Childs Digital Cameras loaned by the Augusta Arts Council, and Mrs. Hickman's Canon SD450 and Canon 20D. Each student also got their own disposable camera to take home and take pictures of family and their neighborhood.

"It was a good class," Austin Dixon, 11, said. "I like taking pictures with the big camera."

Because the class ran through the winter when there was a lot of rain, they ended up staying inside the Boys and Girls Club facility for their photo shoots.

"All the kids at the club have been very cooperative and gracious about having their pictures taken," Mrs. Hickman said. "We've had a ball. I have laughed and laughed."

The course began with the basics -- holding a camera steady, framing a photograph, light direction, attention to background and perspective.

"It was fun taking a lot of pictures with a lot of cameras," Gabby Cain, 10, said. "And it was easy. I didn't have to go through a lot of steps."

The photography class was part of the National Photography program "Image Makers" funded with a grant from the GrassRoots Arts Program. The purpose of the class was to teach photography as a way of seeing, expressing, documenting and storytelling.

During the "expressing" class, Mrs. Hickman had the children take pictures of each other making silly faces.

"They've got some of the best silly faces I've ever seen, without a doubt," she said.

Mrs. Hickman proudly shows off the pictures taken by the children to anyone who stops at the Boys and Girls Club. Each week, she printed all the pictures, then had the students "edit" them by placing a box/frame around the best part of the photograph and "X-ing out" the part to be deleted.

"They loved it. When they see her pull up, they are all over her right away," said Sharon Meyers, the director of the Thomson Boys and Girls Club. "And the parents were really surprised with how good they did."

Another lesson included things to do with photographs, including printing and framing, sharing, scrapbooking, making posters and collages, entering in contests and making gifts for friends.

But most of all, the students caught on to Mrs. Hickman's love of the hobby itself. Club leaders said Austin is usually focused only on playing basketball when he comes into the club, and rarely sits for school or art work. But in the photography class, he learned to stop the action of basketball in a camera frame.

"For somebody who loves sports to take up something other than sports, it was awesome," said Malissa Hackney, the teen coordinator at the club. "They all learned a lot."

Some of the pictures used in this article were taken by students in the class. To see more pictures taken by members of the class, visit SPOTTED at

Web posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010

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