Review: Human Stories: Finding the Personal

Written on October 20, 2019, posted in News, Review

Still from Betty Laura Zapata's project during the workshop "Human Stories". Helmuth and Juana get ready to go out on Oct. 5, 2019 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Helmuth is a member of the Shanty chorus in Rotterdam. He attends and participates in the choir every Tuesday. Juana regularly accompanies Helmuth to his performances when feeling in good health. ©Betty Laura Zapata

October 1- 6, 2019
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Tutors Ed Kashi and Ilvy Njiokiktjien

This six-day VII Photo Agency work­shop in Rotterdam, the Netherlands focused on teach­ing stu­dents how to tell visu­al sto­ries about the human con­di­tion.

Telling per­son­al sto­ries and con­nect­ing with the human ele­ment is what draws many peo­ple into pho­tog­ra­phy in the first place, but telling per­son­al sto­ries can be dif­fi­cult. In this work­shop, stu­dents strength­ened their per­son­al visions and worked on an ongo­ing or new project. They shared their work in inti­mate ses­sions and learned about the many new ways that they can tell visu­al sto­ries using the new means they have at their dis­pos­al, includ­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, motion, and sound. There were both indi­vid­ual and group cri­tiques of stu­dent work, and stu­dents also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get feed­back on oth­er ongo­ing projects they were work­ing on.

The work­shop empha­sized help­ing stu­dents devel­op their per­son­al vision and unique styles. As Ed Kashi and Ilvy Njiokiktjien both spe­cial­ize in telling human sto­ries, they shared with stu­dents their own unique visu­al styles and approach­es. They showed exam­ples of many per­son­al projects, com­mis­sions for NGOs and foun­da­tions, and their edi­to­r­i­al work for major pub­li­ca­tions, and reviewed pho­tographs, mul­ti­me­dia, and short films.

Guest lec­tur­er Evelien Kunst enriched the stu­dents’ expe­ri­ence by shar­ing her bril­liant overview of how to make it and sur­vive as a free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er. The class also got a chance to expe­ri­ence the Dutch book event, “Fotodok Book Club”, where inter­na­tion­al pho­to books were pre­sent­ed by their authors. The event includ­ed tutor Ilvy’s dis­cus­sion and Q&A ses­sion of her new book, “Born Free”, based on her based on her South Africa work. Betty Laura Zapata and Irynka Hromotska received schol­ar­ships spon­sored by the VII Academy to par­tic­i­pate in this work­shop.

View a selec­tion of images cre­at­ed dur­ing the work­shop by our schol­ar­ship recip­i­ents below.

Betty Laura Zapata

Helmuth Tjemmes (75) and Juana Ider (76) are recent part­ners. They met each oth­er one-and-a-half years ago and they are now insep­a­ra­ble.

Helmuth joined a dat­ing web­site to find com­pan­ion­ship after hav­ing been a wid­ow­er for sev­er­al years. A friend of Juana saw his online pro­file and rec­om­mend­ed that she get in touch with him. Juana was also wid­owed a long time ago and was feel­ing lone­ly. The day they met, he cooked for her and they imme­di­ate­ly felt attract­ed towards each oth­er.

They were both very hard-working and active peo­ple. Helmuth is a retired engi­neer and Juana worked for years on an agri­cul­tur­al pota­to pro­duc­tion line and then as a hotel house­keep­ing maid. Their lives are now shaped by a peace­ful rou­tine togeth­er.

  • Still from Betty Laura Zapata’s project dur­ing the work­shop “Human Stories”. Helmuth and Juana get ready to go out on Oct. 5, 2019 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Helmuth is a mem­ber of the Shanty cho­rus in Rotterdam. He attends and par­tic­i­pates in the choir every Tuesday. Juana reg­u­lar­ly accom­pa­nies Helmuth to his per­for­mances when feel­ing in good health. ©Betty Laura Zapata

  • Helmuth dri­ves with Juana towards the city of Spijkenisse, where he will sing along with the Shanty cho­rus on Oct. 5, 2019 in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands.

  • Juana waits patient­ly for Helmuth in the carpark on Oct. 5, 2019 in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands.

  • Juana gets con­fort­able among oth­er atten­dants to enjoy the open air per­for­mance of the Shanty Chorus of Rotterdam on Oct. 5, 2019 in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands.

  • The Shanty Chorus of Rotterdam mid-performance on Oct. 5, 2019 in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands. Helmuth has been an active mem­ber of the group for over a year.

  • Helmuth walks on his way to meet Juana on Oct. 4, 2019 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

  • Juana and Helmuth wait for the ele­va­tor to Helmuth’s apart­ment on Oct. 5, 2019 in Rotterdam. Juana spends most of her time with Helmuth at his apart­ment, even though she still has her own place.

  • His and hers hang­ers on the bed on Oct. 5, 2019 in Rotterdam. The cou­ple lives in the cen­tre of Rotterdam, a con­trast to their qui­et lives togeth­er.

  • Juana helps Helmuth with the but­tons of his shirt at the end of the day on Oct. 5, 2019 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

  • Juana relax­es on her sofa after a long day on Oct. 3, 2019 in Rotterdam. Juana suf­fers from severe back pain and tends to get very tired upon retun­ing home.

  • Helmuth scans his book col­lec­tion on Oct. 4, 2019 in Rotterdam. He search­es for a spe­cif­ic book on photography—Helmuth has been a keen ama­teur pho­tog­ra­ph­er for most of his adult life.

  • A can­did moment in the kitchen with Helmuth and Juana on Oct. 3, 2019 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Irynka Hromotska

Home away from home

Irynka writes: Both of my main hero­ines were not born in the Netherlands. Sandra is from sun­ny Curaçao and Zami was born in Cape Verde. But life is unpre­dictable. Both of them end­ed up liv­ing in Rotterdam and work­ing at the same char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tion. Far away from their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, both women often feel lone­ly. However, they both try to find joy in every­day life: work, meet­ing with friends, and mem­o­ries. They try to make it feel like home far away from home.

  • Sandra and Zumi have morn­ing cof­fee in the office of the char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tion they are employed by.

  • Sandra has a con­ver­sa­tion with Bert (the founder of the char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tion) about her month­ly salary.

  • Zami works on the spe­cial pots for organ­ic mush­rooms.

  • Sandra on the train with her co-worker and her friend.

  • Sandra plays with her grand­daugh­ter in the hos­pi­tal. The night before, the lit­tle girl had had trou­ble breath­ing. However, Sandra hopes every­thing will be ok.

  • Sandra has a moment of peace in the hos­pi­tal build­ing.

  • Sandra on her way to meet a friend.

  • Zami enters her house after shop­ping.

  • Zami stands near the bed­table in her room.

  • Zami’s bed­table is filled with cos­met­ics and pho­tographs of her dear­est moth­er.