Higher Vision is an exhibition organised by SSHoP, SQA and the Scottish Parliament. It celebrates the work of young photographers studying Higher Photography in Scotland. As 2018 is the Year of Young People we put out a call for school pupils to review the exhibition. 14 year old Amanda Amaeshi, a budding (and award-winning) journalist, answered that call.
In light of the Year of Young People 2018, The Scottish Society for the History of Photography, SQA and Scottish Parliament joined forces to create a new exhibition exploring Scotland through the lens of photography students – namely Higher Vision.
Students across Scotland can choose to take Higher Photography as one of their courses in S5 or S6. Starting in 2011 with about 1000 students taking part, the course has developed and expanded over the years, until, in the academic session 2017-18, around 2300 students enrolled in this demanding challenge. Through the practical and experiential course, students develop skills in photography and use the medium in visually imaginative ways, are encouraged to be critically self-aware and also increase their appreciation of photographic work and practice. As part of their course assessments, students create projects, consisting of 12 photographs. From the 2300 entries, the SQA selected 80 of the strongest candidates (ten from each of the eight parliamentary regions of Scotland). A panel consisting of photography and industry experts then whittled it down to the 26 students whose work is now on display.
The exhibition is open to the public every Monday-Saturday until Friday 8 February 2019 at the Scottish Parliament, and entry is free. I went along to the official opening on Tuesday 21 November, and at once I was in awe of the quality of the students’ work. Words like ‘shocking’, ‘beautiful’, ‘challenging’, ‘reflective’ – they don’t even begin to describe just what visitors like myself witnessed on the opening night.
A common theme amongst the work was the hidden beauty in the world around us, such as nature and architecture and other ordinary things such as coffee beans or desktop objects. Despite all the bad things and negativity that we might face in our daily lives, if we look closely enough, our world is truly a beautiful place. But often we don’t realise that. And often we do things that would ultimately destroy our world. These photos teach us to just stop and appreciate the wonder and beauty of it.
Other photos delved into pressing issues that young people face in today’s society, such as beauty standards, mental health, isolation, and adolescence. Often, topics of this kind can be stigmatised, and the opinions of young people can be just pushed aside – and it got me thinking: ‘What can we do about this?’ In my opinion, it’s quite straightforward: having a listening ear that hears not to reply but rather to understand; genuine care about how others feel – and doing something about it. These are simple things we can all do to help make our society and the world around us a happier place, filled with more positivity. These photos challenge us to take action.
Some photos captured people, their daily lives, their daily stories. Portraits. People at work and play. Important people, family, friends. It’s always great to see the world from another person’s perspective, to step into someone else’s shoes, see their story. And it pushes us to write our own life stories, to make meaningful connections with others, to leave our mark on the world. These photos inspire us, they spark creativity from within.
But creating a series of photographs up to the standard of these candidates isn’t just as easy as clicking the shutter button on your smartphone camera. It takes a lot of hard work and effort. Hours of writing or sketching, planning out ideas on the drawing board; the photoshoot: getting objects or models if necessary, getting the right lighting, the right angle. It takes dedication. Nevertheless, it’s worth it in the end, when your work gets showcased and celebrated, especially in a place where thousands of visitors and extremely influential people in government get to be taught, challenged, and inspired by it. That’s a massive achievement, and it’s so important that young people’s stories continue to be heard, recognised, and appreciated. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, but in these cases, it’s more than just that. It’s a whole story. But don’t just take it from me. You really need to witness it for yourself.
Amanda Amaeshi is 14 years old. She is a budding journalist who has been writing since the day she could talk. Representing Scotland, she won the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competition in June 2017 with her article on food waste. She is an active contributor to her school’s (Dollar Academy) student magazine, The Galley, and was recently promoted to one of the Deputy Editors (the youngest, in fact!). She is also a Blogs Editor at the Young Scientists Journal (YSJ). Throughout 2018, Amanda was an ambassador for the Year of Young People 2018 (YOYP2018).
She lives in Dunfermline, Fife, and has a little brother, Jeffrey (9 years).