Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

Photography course

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In addition to my courses at the Graduate Institute over the last two semesters, I have followed a photojournalism course offered by the Cultural Activities department of the University of Geneva. An excellent local photographer named Jörg Brockmann teaches the course (website: It differs from all of the other photography courses I have taken in that we are not learning about technical questions, but working on a photojournalism project for the semester. The sessions are therefore devoted to reviewing recent photos and talking about what is needed to complete our portfolios.

As part of the course, Cultural Activities offers to refund your tuition if (a) you shoot two of their programs (dance, art, theatre, etc.) and (b) they want to buy your photos for their website and brochure. In the fall semester, I chose to shoot their African dance class and a clown workshop. I think I chose well, as I found each activity engaging to photograph in its own way. By contrast some of the other students chose very static programs, such as orchestra or radio, and were quickly feeling limited by their subjects.

My two activities were engaging for different reasons. The African dance class attracted me for the motion and for the interaction between dancers and drummers. The instructor divided the class into lines in front of the drummers. Each line had a couple of minutes directly in front of the drummers, then would retreat to the back, leaving the drums to the next line. They danced mostly in place, which allowed me to approach them more than if they were careening about the room. Here are some of my favourite African dance photos:

The clown workshop was also dynamic, but I was attracted most by the expressions of the aspiring clowns. Some of the participants were shyer than others, so many of my favourite photos were of three or four of the more comfortable, expressive girls in the class:

Cultural Activities bought my portfolio for the two programs. I believe they will use most of the photos they buy in the program they will print next year, but a couple of mine already appear on the web pages for the African dance ( and clown workshop (, with my name misspelled of course.

For the spring semester, we had the choice of shooting again for Cultural Activities or developing our own project. I chose the latter, hoping to link the photo project with a uni study of housing in Geneva, but it did not work out the way I had intended. Towards the middle of the semester I had to abandon the first idea in favour of something more feasible, so I chose “refuge in the city,” shooting Bains des Pâquis, a central space in Geneva. It is a jetty on Lac Léman on which they have built a sauna and baths complex, a restaurant-bar, and from which you can swim in the lake. It is right downtown, so is a magnet when the sun shines.

Here are a few of my favourites from “refuge in the city:”


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