Oxford photographer Jonathan Self is on a mission. As the creator of the world’s first online course for children that combines photography with mindfulness, he wants to get children outside this summer, away from computer games, to encourage creativity.
The new course Cultivating Wonder has been created for children aged 5-9 and 10-16. Designed to awaken a sense of wonder about the world, it takes children on a voyage of exploration, creativity and story-telling through photography, while helping them appreciate living in the moment.
Jonathan said: “We are on a mission to get rid of summer holiday lethargy, get children outside and away from Fortnite and Roblox, and out into the real world. The course has been designed for every child who needs a touch of inspiration and a sprinkle of joy.”
So why did this leading portrait and family photographer decide to bring mindfulness and photography together in this way?
Jonathan says: “It started with a walk with a friend and her two children in Devon. The two children were open-eyed with wonder and asked me a lot of questions about photography. That experience stayed with me, seeing how inquisitive children were about the world and photography.”
As a result, fast forward a few months, and Jonathan decided to launch an exciting and innovative online photography course for children at the start of lockdown. The course was a big hit with parents, largely down to how it seemed to awaken a sense of awe in children.
“Some parents even took part themselves and really looked forward to the weekly sessions,” Jonathan says.
During lockdown, creativity and mindfulness have been shown to be effective tools to manage change and cope with isolation.
Now, with a dedicated Cultivating Wonder team helping Jonathan, the first online course to combine photography and mindfulness for children takes the next steps on its exciting journey.
As well as working as a photographer in Oxford, Jonathan has worked with hundreds of families in the past five years as well as with leading high-street brands including with M&S. He specialises in taking beautiful, authentic portraits.
He discovered his passion for photography as a late teenager and then spent much of the early noughties travelling around the world, visiting and photographing communities in India, Peru, South Africa and Swaziland.
This included spending time on the Ground Zero site in New York, witnessing HIV/AIDS work in Southern Africa, meeting community workers in two slums in Peru, and paying many visits to orphanage and leprosy projects across India.
Jonathan added: “I now spend most of my time in the UK but travel around the country for photoshoots and love meeting new people. People are my biggest passion.
“I love hearing people’s stories and capturing them on film and photography can act as a liberating force within this process,” he says.
The Cultivating Wonder course starts on Monday August 3, and then again on September 7 and costs £35. Over four weeks, children have access to films and other online resources to guide them on their photographic journey.
So what can parents expect from this Oxford photographer? Jonathan explained: “The course includes four 30-minute films over four weeks for 5-9 year-olds and four 45-minute films over four weeks for 10-16-year-olds. The films will be fun and engaging and hosted on the Teachable online learning platform with a secure password.
There is a weekly interactive group webinar in a private Facebook group for parents and children, where children can interact with the teaching, as well as beautiful, full colour downloadable PDF worksheets with fun tasks sent to your inbox every week, which will inspire your child.”
Children will also become part of a learning community on Facebook and have access to weekly tips on how to improve photography, and encouragement and advice offered on all aspects of creativity. Their hard work and creativity will be rewarded with their photos being shown in a private gallery.
“No prior knowledge or experience is needed, and the children are given simple tasks to do over the course of four weeks, all designed to increase their sense of wonder and joy at the world. A child doesn’t need a specialist camera to take part, any camera will do including a phone camera,” he adds.
The course has been designed to give children the tools for a healthier mindset as they observe their environment more closely, and help them resist the pull of the technological world as they explore a new visual language, perhaps for the very first time.
Jonathan added: “It will give children additional confidence at learning a new skill as they take ownership of this. This especially helps children who might struggle with shyness, or are overly self-conscious, as it gives them an outlet to find their voice without the need to be centre of attention, and be able to engage with people but from behind the camera.
“It will also help children with the ability to develop photography as a skill and take it forwards over the next few years, engaging with their favourite hobbies and sports in a new way as they look at things from a different perspective.”
For more information go to https://www.cultivatingwonder.co/
Find out more about the Oxford photographer Jonthan Self at: https://www.jonathanself.co.uk/
Private Facebook group for parents interested in creativity and wonder for them and their children: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cultivatingwonder2020