Trust no-one. A harsh and cynical attitude.
This post is in some ways about my relationship with Olympus cameras, but much more so about my day job.
I work in a school.
In the county where I live and work we still have old fashioned grammar schools. That means that the kids take a test when they are in year 6, and if they get selected they get to go to some of the best state schools in the county. The grammar schools are all considered great schools, and their results reflect this. Parents move into the county to try to get their kids into grammar school, and are often more than happy to make voluntary contributions to their dear children’s education. Grammar schools attract support from their alumni, charities and local businesses as well. People just love being associated with these schools.
The other kids go to the secondary moderns. Yes, they still exist.
Statistically the secondary modern kids are less likely to be academic; the average pupil is, by the nature of the system probably below average academic ability. So the schools tend not to get the exam results that the grammar schools get. As such the parents, the charities and local businesses are less likely to give them financial support.
As so often, those in most need, get the least.
And that’s where I work.
And, I can honestly say, some of the pupils are the most creative kids I have ever met. Ask them to factorise a quadratic equation and you’ll get blank looks, but ask them how they would respond to the idea of ‘freedom’ in art and you’ll be overrun with (great) suggestions.
I always tell my little camera club that they are some of the best young photographers I’ve met. In a recent camera club open competition, they won six out of seven prizes. In another competition, they won five out of six. Last year in the Amnesty International Youth Awards, two pupils were short-listed to the final ten. The year before, another pupil came second overall in the same competition. In a BIPP national competition the school picked up four out of seven awards.
They are really good, but not one of them comes from a family where they could fund the sort of camera that the average entry level hobbyist would buy themselves. Add to this a budget from the school of zero pounds per year, and we’re down to begging kit from freecycle. One of my kids was over joyed to get an early Christmas present of a second-hand canon 350d, which was much, much better than the aged bridge camera she was using up to then; one where she could only fit 17 images on the only memory card she has. Actually, most of them don’t have very much kit, but they make up for this by having real passion for photography.
So, at a camera show, I was telling someone from Olympus about these kids. Apparently Olympus could do something to help. Could we arrange a session at school to get the kids some hands-on experience with Olympus kit?
Could I arrange a session at school? Well, actually I could do better than that. As it happens, another of the kids I taught last year has a mother who owns a studio. Not just any studio, but a totally brilliant outdoor, converted farm; an amazing venue used by one of the top names in British fashion to show off last year’s autumn collection. Did she know the Olympus photographer in question? Of course. Could we perhaps use her studio? Well, yes, we could.
Brilliant! After some behinds the scene self-publicity we had the use of a classic jaguar car and a much newer Aston Martin. A couple of manufacturers would give us some lighting and tripods. A magazine expressed an interest in doing an article on the project.
We were set to go as soon as the Olympus guy got back to us.
Eight months later our Olympus guy says, ‘Are we still on for this project?’
Actually, no. No, we’re not. We’d lost it all.
Oh, sorry about that.
We can do something else though – what about …..
Another month passed and …………. Nothing.
Cheers for that.
So, ….. my kids are still brilliant. They’ve won more prizes. They’ve photographed a major classic car event. They’ve been out to do some night photography. They’re experts on splash photography and legography. They’ve done a great project on the theme of ‘movement’ which they can use for their GCSE.
They’re not great fans of Olympus.
I think that’s a shame, but they feel very let down, as do I.
So, if you are ever in a position to help people, it really is better to say and do nothing, than to make empty promises. We never asked for any help. It was offered, and I foolishly believed the word of someone who is, after all, paid well to be an ambassador for a major camera company.
I will not make that mistake again, and my kids who have already been let down by an education system that regards them as second class citizens, have learnt that people cannot be trusted.