“Hey, could you take this photo of me?”
“That’s a really good camera. Can I take a look?”
“How do you use this to take photos indoors without the flash?”
There goes my plan to go commando for the rest of two weeks.
Okay, I’m kidding. To be honest, I was surprised anyone took notice of the photographer, especially since the media team in the 2012 Asia Youth Forum was usually stationed at the back of the hall working feverishly, while participants and trainers paid full attention to what was going on in front, whether it was announcements or the introduction of new debate materials.
Since this was the first time we were covering a two-week intensive camp/forum, we were unsure of the response we would receive from not just the participants, but those outside of the event: How will this turn out if this goes on Facebook now? How many will actually go to the website to read our stories? Can these stories travel far or is this only reading material to the participants?
From Apprehensiveness to Acceptance
These were the questions that swirled in our heads, but we dared to try, and so we arrived before the forum started and began interviewing the trainers. Some eyebrows were raised (don’t worry, we raised ours too), but the interviews went smoothly.
But as the participants arrived, we began to hear so many colourful stories that we just had to sit them down and interview them. The participants – from those living in urban areas fully exposed to media culture to camera-shy ones who probably had never been interviewed before – all let their guard down, and told us their stories with sincerity.
Writing them into a piece everyone would want to read was not easy. Sometimes I had to go back two to three times just to make sure I got the facts right, and the interviewees weren’t always there.
But it was worth it, seeing the stories published, the comments we got on Facebook and the website, and seeing the participants’ beaming faces as they said “I read your story last night!”
The apprehensiveness that we felt was no longer there. We were welcomed and our stories appreciated.
Capturing the moment
I tried to write as many stories as I could, but I mostly worked as the photographer. I was that annoying prick that went in and out of the room as debaters tried to concentrate on debating their points while judges tried to fill in their ballots.
Several times I think I broke the concentration of the debaters, but they were very professional and picked themselves up very soon after that. My job to capture their moment became a very easy task.
There is this saying that photography captures the soul, and I really believed that as I timed my camera right and angled them. I quickly took the expressions of debaters whether they were debating, laughing, or even dancing on stage.
Debaters are really expressive, and I found myself smiling when I went through the photos on the computer, especially those that expressed jubilance, excitement and happiness.
I felt quite sad that I couldn’t upload all the pictures because they all look great, but the selected ones on Facebook and Flickr are still one of the few best moments captured live.
As we head back to our respective countries, I just want to say thank you for allowing us inside your lives, even if it’s for a brief moment.
The stories that you guys shared with us, as we tried to retell them to the public, made the whole experience a lot sweeter.
Thank you for not criticising the photos too much too!
And also, thank you, for wanting to take photos of me because all of you said I was always behind the lens, never in front.
As a media person, I don’t always think I have to be in the photo, because I’m the one taking the photos.
But to some of you, I didn’t become just “the photographer”, I’ve become an acquaintance and a friend. And I thank you for that.
Thank you all for the wonderful experiences. I’ll see you when I see you.
The full list of names that were part of the Media Team:
Cindi Loo Sim Ee
Muhammad Haris Wiranata