The photographers appeared from nowhere, flashguns popping in the late-morning sun. But this was no paparazzi horde. The frantic snappers were participants on a two-day photojournalism workshop in Bhutan run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Their startled subjects – women entrepreneurs hawking snacks and drinks at the capital’s bus station – grimaced then laughed and got on with their jobs.
Dressed in Bhutan’s colorful, belted robes, the photographers experimented with shutter speeds, aperture settings and various shooting angles. Their mission: to tell stories through pictures. Their theme: “women helping women”.
The exercise on the streets of Thimphu was part of an unprecedented course hosted by Bhutan Media Institute and designed to give local photographers a crash course in the art and science of visual narratives.
Led by Thomson Reuters Foundation Editor-in-Chief Tim Large, the workshop encouraged photographers from the Himalayan kingdom’s 12 newspapers and several magazines to see themselves as fully fledged journalists whose images have the power to move, provoke and shape opinion.
Despite a population of only 700,000, Bhutan has seen an explosion of private media in recent years as the fledgling democracy prepares for 2013 elections. But photojournalism remains an alien concept for many publications, whose photographers simply turn up to take pictures “for the record”.
The Oct 15-16 course covered the ethics of photojournalism along with technical proficiency and the essentials of storytelling through images. It combined classroom instruction with down-and-dirty training on the streets of Thimphu.
Participants were from national daily Kuensel as well The Bhutan Observer, Bhutan Today, Bhutan Times, Business Bhutan, Bhutan Youth, The Bhutanese, Druk Yoedzer, Druk Melong, Gyalchi Sarshog, Druk Trowa, Yeewong, Student Digest and Bhutan Time Out.
Several freelance photographers and one fashion photographer also took part. The workshop was supported by the Bhutan Media Foundation.