FOTOGRAF – The life of young people in Uganda, through their eyes

Last week saw the opening of award-winning photographer Julian Claxton’s latest exhibition, Fotograf, at our Future Business Centre at the Cambridge Guildhall. Established in 2015, Fotograf (previously Give a Child a Camera) is a programme of photography workshops designed to ‘enrich, inspire and empower’ young people in East Africa. The resulting exhibition is a collection of uplifting, insightful images taken by Ugandan children, capturing their authentic stories from their own perspective

The launch event for Julian Claxton’s FOTOGRAF exhibition at the Cambridge Guildhall

The exhibition was launched with an evening showing, where project founder Julian talked about his first trip to Uganda in 2012. Although he jokingly recalled that this first journey (completed by cycling from the UK!) was spurred on by a break-up, he went on to explain how it resulted in a chance encounter with a school in the mountains of Southwest Uganda and ended up profoundly changing the path of his career. Within months he had returned to the school with a bag of donated cameras, ready to teach photography for the first time.  Julian described the visit as ‘life-changing ‘and urged everyone to try and see East Africa for themselves if they can.

So, Fotograf was born and it led to several more trips over the years, returning to teach the previous students he’d met before, as well as some at risk young people at the borders. The free, two-week long workshops offered young people new skills and confidence as they got to grips with the fundamental aspects of photography. As the project grew, it was even able to offer one child, Violah, the opportunity to continue her studies with a full-time vocational photography placement, after her education was cut short due to lack of funds.

The launch event for Julian Claxton’s FOTOGRAF exhibition at the Cambridge Guildhall

Julian explained that, for many of the participants, this was the first time they had seen a camera so teaching often began with just a paper cut out of a camera to explain how it worked. The lack of prior experience makes their captivating images brilliantly uninhibited. The exhibition shares participants’ experiments with the cameras as they explore their identity and document what’s important to them – siblings, friends, days out, people working and more. Some get curious and turn the camera on themselves for their own portraits.

  My friends playing – Elizabeth 

a camera has let me have fun taking photos of my family, this is my brother in the field’ – Brea

Last year Fotograf continued to grow; Julian joined Allia’s free ‘Start Your Business’ programme and worked with our business advisors to find new ways to increase the project’s impact. Next year it will become a registered charity and provide life changing skills to even more young people.

The Fotograf exhibition will be running until January 31st at the Cambridge Guildhall (Peas Hill entrance), Market Square, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ. Entry is free. Daytime and evening talks by the project founder will be announced at a later date; subscribe to our newsletter for further updates.

If you would like to purchase any works from the exhibition please email Proceeds from sales go directly to the photographers in Uganda. Discover more of Julian Claxton’s work on his website

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