Snap shot of youth

29th June 2007 at 01:00
Young East Enders are using screen printing and photography to show they are more than 'hoodies'. Jan Trebilcock reports

Being stereotyped as menacing hoodies, or as loud and threatening gang members when they are simply walking down the street with their mates, is upsetting for lots of teenagers. But examining how young people are portrayed in the media can be a great starting point for some creative work, according to Julia Millette, an art teacher at Stratford School.

Julia is on secondment to her local City Learning Centre in Newham, London, for a year to explore new ways to use ICT in art and media. She established the "Feeling SafeFeeling Great" scheme to give teenagers a chance to discuss issues close to their heart and produce inventive work using screen printing and computers.

The Year 9 pupils taking part started by discussing the people, places and things that made them feel safe, as well as negative images of teenagers in the media. "Then they thought about the good things about young people - like being able to take a fresh look at things and coming up with innovative new ideas," says Julia.

The pupils' first step towards expressing their ideas visually was to photograph each other using digital cameras and mobile phones. They experimented with a variety of poses and how each one conveys a different message, says Julia. The photographs were used to make stencils for a silkscreen.

"The pupils like doing something hands-on and practical as well as the IT work," says Julia. "And silkscreens have a different quality, offering both texture and hard lines, unlike a photograph, which has continuous tones."

Once the silkscreen prints were completed, they too were photographed.

Then the children experimented with combining the images using Photoshop software. "Photography is a great way of capturing images that can then be manipulated in many different ways," says Julia. "Pupils like it because it is so immediate and you can try out loads of ideas quickly, experimenting more freely.

"They enjoy both the screen printing and using IT to manipulate the images.

It's easy for them to look at composition and play with re-sizing and repositioning the images to create the desired effect, using these techniques. And they like combining several images using Photoshop, layer upon layer, using different colour effects throughout the process to create new textures and moods."

Combining screen printing and IT in an art project in this way also means the children come away with a lot of new skills, says Julia, who is sharing ideas with other teachers in Newham in readiness for the 14-19 Creative and Media diploma, which will be on offer from September 2008. Children from 15 secondary schools in Newham have taken part in her one-day Feeling SafeFeeling Great workshops - funded by the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund as part of Newham's 2012 Olympic preparations. Work from the scheme will be displayed on advertising hoardings and bus stops around the borough later this year. Julia has ideas to extend the scheme, including turning the screen prints into 3D objects, projecting them as part of a film project or performance, and even making them into clothes

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