Photos that changed my life

This Is Wiltshire: Students of Edwin Koo’s annual masterclass in Nepal are encouraged to “tell real stories” by capturing everyday scenes. This is a series based on an elderly Nepalese man Students of Edwin Koo’s annual masterclass in Nepal are encouraged to “tell real stories” by capturing everyday scenes. This is a series based on an elderly Nepalese man

FREELANCE project manager Jennifer Berry was browsing the internet one night when she came across an article posted in the British Journal of Photography… and it changed her life.

It showcased submissions for a prestigious international award that included the portfolio A Strange Place Called Home, focusing on displaced communities in Nepal, by Singapore-based documentary photographer Edwin Koo.

Stunned at the sheer potency of what she was seeing, Jennifer, of Old Town, recalled: “The intensity and power of his images were so strong that they resonated deeply.”

Having grown up in an Army family, keen photographer Jennifer lived at various bases around the world experiencing different cultures and ways of life.

Her father was a semi-professional photographer who undertook work for the Forces while also widely exhibiting his non-military photos.

She said: “Edwin’s images were like glimpses of the people, cultures and far-away lands I had experienced in my youth.

“You never have a home or permanent base for very long as a serving family and so I could strongly relate to his subject matter of a sense of loss and displacement.

“Seeing them stirred up lots of memories and emotions for me.”

Jennifer, who once managed a multi-lingual contact centre for Intel in Swindon, took a chance and contacted Koo.

He immediately accepted her offer of assistance and she now helps him run an annual masterclass for photography students in Nepal, along with a number of other projects.

This Sunday at Christ Church Community Centre in Old Town Jennifer has organised a photo seminar which will see Koo engage with aspiring Swindon photographers live from Singapore 6,750 miles away.

Called Tell Real Stories, the event will feature remarkable images that throw light on the every-day lives and struggles of people in far-flung corners of the globe like Nepal.

Koo, 36, whose work has adorned some of the world’s leading newspapers from the New York Times to Le Monde, will be chatting to the audience and answering questions during the 90-minute live web conference.

The award winning photo-journalist will present the aforementioned A Strange Place Called Home, a three part project that landed him the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 for Singapore’s most outstanding photographer.

He created the work in Nepal and Pakistan between 2008 and 2011 from a trio of subjects: Tibetan exiles, Maoist fighters and the mass exodus of Pakistani refugees from the Swat Valley due to fighting between Government and Taliban forces.

He will also show the work of his own students from last year’s Kathmandu Inside Out (KIO) photography masterclass.

Jennifer, who will host Sunday’s session, said: “Edwin will discuss the art of visual story-telling and talk about how photojournalists capture the decisive moment.

“He will explain how photographers string together lyrical images to tell unforgettable stories.”

Jennifer, who has amassed an impressive portfolio of her own from photographic expeditions to Nepal, added: “These seminars are relaxed and fun.

“Edwin encourages the session to be question and answer-based so that the audience are interacting with him all the way through.”

l Tickets for the event, which takes place from 2-4pm at the Christ Church Community Centre, Cricklade Street, Swindon SN1 3HB on Sunday, April 13 are £7 and £5 concessions. They are available in advance from http://www.wegottickets.com/event/267277 and also on the door.

JENNIFER'S NOMADIC CHILDHOOD

JENNIFER settled in Swindon 18 years ago after spending her itinerant upbringing at a succession of British Army bases around the world with parents Clifford and Catherine.

She said: “I’ve lived in Germany, Holland, Gibraltar, Malta, Africa and the West Indies and travelled in over 50 other countries, some of where I lived for shorter periods.

“I spent time in North India where I taught English to Tibetan monks, ex-political prisoners and Tibetan lay-people and have seen first-hand their trauma, pain and loss of homeland.”

A warrant officer 1st class with the Royal Army Ordnance Core, Clifford was also a talented photographer. “I would jump at every chance to go on shoots with him,” said Jennifer.

“I found photography fascinating and I loved to listen to my father telling us stories about the people, history and culture of countries we’d visited.

“He was like a walking encyclopedia and his fascination for history, politics and his ability to craft mesmerising stories about different cultures and people was infectious.”

Jennifer, whose parents met in Egypt during the Suez Crisis, said her youth-hood ambition was to become a war correspondent.

“At the time it seemed like the most logical career to follow.  For me it was about the futile destruction of humanity, so pointless and tragic. 

“All I wanted to do was to go to these places and take pictures and shout at the world and tell everyone to stop.

“My father put a stop to my wild ideas when I was 16.  He hid my passport and locked up his cameras to prevent his reckless daughter running off to war zones to take pictures. 

“He was very aware of my impulsive nature, tom-boy attributes and desire for adventure. He issued a disciplinary on a par with a stripping of the ranks and a threat so fearsome I stayed home and gave up on my dream.

“In hind-sight he was right. I realised later on that female photo-journalists were especially vulnerable because they are women: they still are vulnerable, nothing has changed.”

Jennifer has helped humanitarian/documentary photographer Edwin Koo run two eight-day international masterclasses for photographic students in Kathmandu and another is being put together for 2014.

They also stage photo seminars in Asia and the UK, have presented to photography students at Swindon College and have just been invited to the London School of Photography. 

Jennifer, whose projects in Swindon have included work in brain injury rehabilitation with children, added: “We are branching out within the education sector, providing colleges, universities and educational establishments with seminars.

“I have presented to the Swindon Rotary Club, who have been very supportive and who have shown a great interest in our work in Nepal.”

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