My Day at TAFE: Teaching Photography as a Volunteer with Illawarra Multicultural Services

Last year, I got the chance to help out photographing Wollongong’s first Culture Mix festival for the city council. It was an incredible experience that allowed me to get involved in the vibrant diversity of the Wollongong community. One of the council volunteer coordinators who I met through Culture Mix got in touch with me a few weeks ago to ask if I might have any interest in helping Illawarra Multicultural Services (IMS) deliver a set of photography workshops to TAFE students learning English. I was very excited and humbled to be thought of for this opportunity.

I have been considering perhaps going back to university after I finish my Journalism degree, to do a degree in teaching. This is something I’ve really recently started talking about with friends and family. The idea of teaching has always interested me, but I want to exhaust the possibilities of journalism and photography first and foremost. This opportunity seemed like the perfect way to try a bit of teaching out. Plus, I got to talk about something that I already know a lot about and try out teaching as something I think I might like to do. I also really enjoy getting involved in community volunteering when I get the chance to. So I said thank you for thinking of me – I’d love to!

The council put me in touch with Amro from IMS, who explained on a call that these classes aimed to set students up to take photos on their mobile phones, ahead of an arts competition that IMS runs for Refugee Week. Illawarra Multicultural Services presents the Refugee Week Creative Expressions Competition, with the support of the wonderful team at the South Coast Writer’s Centre. He explained that they’ve run similar classes for the writing and visual arts categories, and that they’d recently added a photography category. The IMS team carries out this competition annually in the Illawarra, undoubtedly giving participants a precious opportunity to express their personal experience of Multicultural Australia. The theme of this year’s refugee week celebrations, and of this competition, is ‘Finding Freedom: Family’. This theme was interesting to me, and I wanted to make sure that my presentation would not only give students a solid base of knowledge, but encourage them to experiment with capturing whatever freedom means to them personally.

I was excited to put my love of Canva to work and make some slides. I had a think about what sort of things are essential in digital literacy, and photography specifically. Of course, most people can hit a button on their phone and taking a picture, so I wanted to come up with small, easy tips that might help someone explore phone photography. They could try out different angles and compositions – they can focus on a particular colour or subject. I also thought about the importance of telling a story through their images, especially given the powerful theme of ‘Finding Freedom’. Of course, most modern phones auto-focus and auto-expose, but I thought it might be helpful to know a bit about how to do that manually. In case their phones weren’t automatically getting the photo they were after, or just to play around. I spoke about different lighting briefly, and we took students outside to find things to take photos of.

We were extremely lucky to have some sun that day – it would have been less fun to stay inside. Some people got really into it – they took their time and wandered far around the TAFE campus, and excitedly showed me their work. Some students even showed me some incredible photos that they’d taken before. It was fun. It felt like everyone was just hanging out. The great thing about photography is that visual language is universal – making it a great idea for this competition. Visual storytelling bridges language barriers with ease, making it an ideal medium for students learning English.

Slider: Teaching Slides

During the workshop, I noticed how quickly the students embraced the challenge. They experimented with different techniques and subject and were eager to share their discoveries with their peers. It was a joy to see their faces light up when they captured a shot they were proud of. This sense of accomplishment and the ability to express themselves visually seemed to boost their confidence, which was wonderful to witness.

I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed meeting a bunch of people from different walks of life and it was interesting to talk and play around. As I left at the end of the day, I felt glad that I had taken this opportunity – it refreshed me, connected me with others, and made me happy. Engaging with the students and seeing their creativity unfold reminded me why I love photography and why I am passionate about community involvement. Thank you to IMS and staff & students at TAFE Wollongong. I can’t wait to see what everyone came up with at their celebration next month.

Reflecting on this experience, I feel more confident about potentially pursuing a career in teaching some day, and reassured that photography is something beautiful that I love. The workshop gave me a glimpse into the joys and challenges of teaching, and I found the experience incredibly fulfilling. It reaffirmed the lovely impact of sharing knowledge and skills with others, and it highlighted the impact that education and community engagement can have on individuals. As I continue my journey in journalism and photography, and ponder the possibility of teaching, I am grateful for opportunities like this that allow me to grow and learn alongside others.

Charity & Not for Profit

At Neesh Photography, we’re dedicated to making a positive impact through our “Charity Clicks” initiative. We are excited to give back to the wonderful community that supports us by providing free photography services to not for profit organisations and charities. We believe in doing what we can with the skills that we have to assist those who work tirelessly to make a difference in our community and beyond. Our goal is to support these organisations by capturing their stories, events, and impactful initiatives with the same dedication and precision we bring to all our projects.