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The children's photo exhibition captures sublime optimism

Photo Exhibition Cuts to Heart of Troubles

Sunday, January 13, 2008
THOUSANDS of families enjoyed the Children's Day activities on Phuket on January 12, with many flocking to be entertained at the public park at Saphan Hin and the Aquarium at Cape Panwa.

The whole day was turned over to the young, and to having their kind of fun. One lasting and worthwhile event, though, is a photography and story-telling exhibition at the Aquarium.

The photographs, hanging from fishnet among exhibits of sailfish and manta rays, were all taken by children as part of the InSIGHT Out project. Stories often accompany the images.

Some of the photographs are remarkable, capturing elements of daily life along the Andaman coast or in the troubled Deep South Provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, where bombs, killings and the burning of schools are regular events.

The children, at first all affected in some way by the 2004 tsunami, were given the chance to try photography by a group of photojournalists who reported the disaster.

Three years on, the project has blossomed into the Saphan Jai (''bridge between hearts'') community festival, involving a music concert and a tour that expands the horizons of the children who go on the exhibition roadtrip, as well as the schools along the way where they relate their experiences and display their work.

Now concluding its second full year, the emphasis has moved to peace-building and breaking down misconceptions that sometimes plague communities under stress.

Children from a sea gypsy village, for example, will go into other communities to snap what they see. Muslims, Buddhists and Burmese are given the same opportunity.

''It helps kids to recognise that cultural and religious divesity exists,'' an organiser said, ''but that we are all part of the same community. The photography is a byproduct of that.''

Most of the children in the project are aged 11 or 12, with some as young as eight and others ranging up to 15, plus cameras and training provided by sponsors and volunteers.

Forty-six of this year's 117 children are from the troubled southern provinces.

The children meet three times a year for one week of intensive training, then continue working within their own community groups.

Technical skills are now being imparted so the children also begin to understand basic computer editing and image enhancement.

The photographs are sublimely optimistic and well worth a visit to the Aquarium to see. The exhibition runs daily until March 16.

The organisers of the Saphan Jai InSIGHT Out project can be contacted as follows. Khun Pim 081 491 9983 Jeanne 086 003 2316 or via email at hallacy@loxinfo.co.th

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