Bristol Photo Festival joined photographer and filmmaker Esther May Campbell‘s workshops (developed from Kitchen Table Photo Club and Scrap Book), commissioning a special post-lockdown session in December with a group of kids in the forest. She was assisted by UWE student, Maria Meco Sanchez, who was invited to write a post about her experience.
An ‘Ancient Playground of Artistic Disciplines’ is the most accurate way of describing an afternoon with Esther May Campbell and the kids in one of her workshops in collaboration with BPF. As time passes the participants become more engaged in what the forest’s got to offer.
Esther’s approach to her workshop rejects classic hierarchy and embraces the art of “letting go”. She encourages kids’ autonomy and helps them to chase and realise their ideas through creative challenges. They’re asked to contribute and plan images, they invent scenarios and love doing it. Some of the more experienced kids have grown strong ideas of how they’d like to take part in the image creation.
The beauty and the purpose of the woodland transcends its initial appearances. It’s a non-judgmental place, it can be everybody’s playground. Regardless of personality, your background and your approach in life, there is always something one can find to take your mind away.
From finding companionship within a stick, to imitating owls at dusk these kids envision scenarios based on natural props they encounter along the way. Kids ages and personalities are very varied and so it’s their way of engaging with the place. The forest is also the common ground for the most hyper and introverted souls alike.
Esther uses Film Photography as an enabler more than a final destination. The medium in this case, has an elusive importance, it engages the kids whilst they create an image however, when the shutter has closed and there remains no screen to witness, they are instantly forced to re-engage with their surroundings.