On a very rainy day in October 2018, photographer Eddie OTCHERE and I walked into the Rugby Portobello Trust in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, with a handful of film, cameras, and a load of ideas. Slowly students began to trickle into the communal room of the youth centre, no one quite sure what they were going to learn, including us. The one goal we kept returning to was about storytelling.
Sixteen months earlier, Grenfell Tower, a three-minute walk from the Rugby Portobello Trust, caught fire, and 72 lives were recorded to have been lost. The community was devastated. It exposed a brutal disparity in terms of the wealth, access, and privilege in the London borough, known as one of the UK’s richest. Watching in horror from the other side of London, I realised the importance of taking control of our own stories, not just to tell them to other people but to record them historically too. Six months later, Dazed’s co-founder Jefferson Hack and I connected with Red Hook Labs’ founder Jimmy Moffatt and we decided to replicate the free photography classes Jimmy was already offering in New York and LA. As part of the newly founded Dazed+Labs education programme, we would teach photography every Tuesday evening at the Rugby Portobello Trust, a beacon of the west London community.
With one first hugely successful term under its belt, Eddie and I, with a new assistant photographer named Alfie White, returned to the Rugby Portobello Trust this month for the second term of Dazed+Labs. With the support of Converse, the students have the opportunity to lead their own photoshoots in a hired studio, complete with models and styling. The images created in this session will be shared on Dazed Digital and across its social channels.
“Much of our learning is to understand the art and techniques embodied in photography. Our studio shoots are essentially the culmination and application of all the art theory and professional practice they've been adopting,” explains OTCHERE. “Much of the apprenticeships in professional photography occur when you become an assistant, working in photo studios. Without this incredible opportunity, there's no way the students can fully appreciate how much of the business of photography occurs when a team of creatives come together to fulfil a commercial goal.”
The studio session will give each student a chance to step into roles that surround the photographer, such as lighting technicians, stylists, art directors, and creative directors. Ultimately, the partnership between Dazed+Labs and Converse allows us to expose these students to more real-life experience and hopefully push them closer to a career path which they will keep pursuing long after the last class of the term.
“I come to these classes because it’s a great atmosphere to be in when learning about photography,” says returning student Ashleigh Beugre Joncourt. “The class and its teachers have helped me gain confidence in my work. This has also made me love film photography even more.”
Term two of Dazed+Labs will culminate on 3 December in an exhibition at the Rugby Portobello Trust and will invite the local community, as well as students’ family and friends to learn more about the stories they are each telling.
Click through the gallery below to see the work from our term one students and keep an eye on Dazed for more from term two