Lensational and Focas talk about their exhibition at An Lanntair

  • Published on: 26th September 2016
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Tell us a little about your exhibition that opened at An Lanntair and the ideas behind it:


We’re a new organisation that brings Scotland exciting international photography linked to our communities. We’re inspired by Lensational’s work – grass-roots photography projects that get people looking around and exploring their world in new ways.

So their project Wanderlust – School Girls of Chennai was right up our street. Last year Lensational worked with girls at a Chennai school who captured the vibrant sights and sounds of their local streets.

The pictures they made tie in wonderfully with our first project Fòcas India, so we were thrilled to co-curate Wanderlust – School Girls of Chennai with Lensational for this year’s Purvai festival. The highlight, for us, was working with young people in Stornoway and how they drew inspiration from the exhibition – we gave them our cameras and our know-how, and they gave us really some stunning images!

We hope to exhibit the young peoples work with An Lanntair and Lensational soon, and we’re really excited, because this is exactly the kind of fun and fresh cultural dialogue we aim to create. In the meantime, you can see some of the work here: www.focas-scotland.com (Launching on Fri 30th Sept)

Tell us a little about your work process:

Lensational: Lensational is a non-profit social enterprise that equips marginalised women in developing areas with digital cameras and photography training. Since 2013, Lensational has conducted photography training for 400 women in 11 developing countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Bhutan, Vietnam and Russia. Their photos and stories – which would have otherwise remained silent – have been shared with over 10,000 followers on our social media channels, global media outlets including the Guardian, TEDx and ABC News, and over 1,500 visitors to our exhibitions in London, Hong Kong and New York.

The four key steps in our business model are:
1. Collecting second-hand digital cameras from individuals and corporates.

2. Photography training: Lensational conducts photography training for marginalised women in partnership with local organisations. Lensational has published a 50-page manual that guides our local volunteers in the 8-hour standard training, validated by photographers, psychologists and researchers. It covers basic camera techniques, emotional expression and storytelling.

3. Selling photos: Photos taken by our participants will then be sold through our online platform, exhibitions and corporate sales partners, which include Getty Images, Wellcome Images and PhotoConcierge. 50% of revenue goes back to the participants; 50% goes back to Lensational. The profits are then reinvested into the programme for further expansion.

4. Continuous training: Once the basic training is complete, participants can choose to receive on-going training and mentoring in advanced photography, entrepreneurship and journalism from experts in the Lensational network.

If people could take one thing away from your exhibition what would it be?

Lensational: How old were you when you went outside for the first time all by your own to explore and take in what the world had to offer to you at that moment? I bet you’ve had the privilege to do so and discover your surroundings at some point of your life. Well, the story of the girls at the Government Girls School at Perambur, Chennai is completely different. They have never in their lives been outside on their own, or with their friends. The importance of a girl’s education is not yet completely understood or taken seriously in most parts of India. They often face discrimination in the family or in the society, and tend to drop out of school before finishing class 5 or 6. Another reason for leaving school early is the difficulty of the girls to study subjects they are weak in without external help. Often, the parents are illiterate or cannot pay for extra tuition.
Is there a solution to this? Can creativity be a sustainable medium to address that issue and help them stay in school? We hope that visitors can remember that having the freedom to travel and to receive education is actually a privilege – and they can help these girls transform their lives by purchasing their photos at http://photos.lensational.org/index/G0000rgOkIiclqrM
How long have you known and worked with An Lanntair?


This is our first project with An Lanntair. Our collaboration will continue next year with our project Fòcas India. We’ll be showcasing some of the most exciting emerging photography from India and Scotland as part of Purvai 2017. An Lanntair will be hosting our supporting events and workshops with local communities exploring the theme of the show, which is ‘Document’. We can’t wait to be back in Stornoway!

How important is it to be showing in a more remote gallery like An Lanntair out with the large hubs of cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh or London.


Well, for us, the Outer Hebrides have exciting historical links to India, yet so few people know about them. We want to celebrate these global ties with An Lanntair. But, more than that, culture exists – in so many exciting forms – beyond the M25 and outside Scotland’s central belt. There is a such a strong flow of diverse creative practice in and out of all Scotland’s regions – and An Lanntair is vital in sustaining that traffic. We’d be missing out on some of our most receptive audiences and our most productive collaborations if we didn’t show there. So thank you for having us.