Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club members warmly welcomed back guest speaker, Tommy Hatwell, for the second of his inspirational talks where he continued telling the story of his journey and deepening relationships with the people of Uganda.
Tommy’s talk, The Borehole and Beyond, centred on the village of Bujagali. A number of boreholes had been created relieving the women and children from the tough, daily struggle of collecting water from the river. But the boreholes can often break through over-use, or damaged pipes and they can also run dry, so they have to make a half-mile walk and negotiate a steep, sometimes slippery slope to fill up jerry cans which are then either carried, or dragged back on makeshift sleds to the village. The borehole is vitally important and, as such, is the hub of the community.
Tommy wanted to create a striking image showing the borehole and the village children, in the same vein as his Night School photograph about a solar-powered classroom - this image was selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 and was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery.
Tommy explained that he first needed to take a panorama of the borehole structure to use as his background (this was achieved by merging four images together) and he then invited the village children to position themselves along the length of the borehole fence.
His vision for the image was to photograph each of the children separately, or in their small groupings, with his assistant, David, lighting them with flashlight – this was the same technique he deployed for his Night School image.
Using a tripod and his 70-200mm lens, he moved left to right across the group, ensuring the focal length was kept the same, as well as the same height and position in frame because in the editing process, all the images needed to be laid over the panorama.
Tommy used a total of 45 layers to create the final borehole image in Photoshop – the photo montage forming a kind of tapestry with each frame revealing more of the story.
He got the image printed onto a 2-metre banner, which he took back with him to Uganda in 2019. He then shared a very touching video showing the unveiling of the image in the village and the sheer joy when the children spotted themselves in the photo. Each of the children were given signed prints of the image as a keepsake.
Tommy also spoke about how he uses his photography to help other groups of people in Uganda. Ironically, the town of Jinga has more photography studios than in Exeter and Plymouth combined! Many of the photographers make money by taking photographs of weddings or graduation ceremonies, but have had no training in how to use a camera, relying solely on the automatic settings. Tommy therefore decided to run a couple of photography workshops and taught a small group the basics about aperture, shutter speed and composition.
Thinking creatively, Tommy realised that by photographing local friends and community groups he could provide them with professional photographs to help promote their work via Facebook and Instagram. One of those groups was the New Hope Dance Project, which offers evening sessions of dance, yoga and meditation to the children from the slums. His meeting with Ambrose and Morris, who run this project, proved a rewarding experience on both sides as they have now formed the team, Think People, Think Story.
As Tommy explained “With relationships at the heart of everything we do, we devise and deliver life-changing projects, initiatives and photography experiences in Uganda”.
Members are already awaiting Tommy’s third talk all about Think People, Think Story, but you can find out more now by visiting the website www.thinkpeoplethinkstory.com
Thanks to special permission from Tommy, here is the brilliant borehole image with the names of each of the children.