Los Angeles-based Margo Moritz began learning the craft of photography at the age of 13. Since then, she has worked as an editorial and more recently a commercial photographer and taught courses at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and elsewhere.
For the past few years, one of Margo’s ongoing projects has featured portraits and lifestyle images of teenage girls. For Margo, the natural evolution of this project was to offer them an intensive photography course.
Rather than just photographing them, I’m putting the camera in their hands so we can see what they see in the world. And to do that, they first need to learn the basic principles of photography.
Margo created her Girls Photo Club as a summer camp for female-identifying teenagers (ages 12-18) wanting to learn photography. Students don’t need any experience, just the desire to learn.
I think learning a skill that is both artistic and technical is really empowering for a young woman. It engages both the right and left brain at the same time, in addition to being a powerful vehicle for self-expression.
Studies show a sharp decline in the self-esteem and confidence levels for teenage and “tween” girls, especially in comparison to their male counterparts. One study reported in the Atlantic surveyed girls between the ages of 8 and 14, asking them to rate their confidence on a scale of 0 to 10. The average of the girls’ responses fell from approximately 8.5 to 6 during these years — a deficit of 30%.
Other studies indicate how mastering a skill can improve a young person’s feelings of self-worth and value. With women especially, teaching them to find their value in what they can do rather than in what they look like can help combat marginalizing social expectations. In addition, focusing on developing their photography skills has the added benefit of providing a creative outlet.
Young women aren’t always taught to master a “machine,” and that’s essentially what a camera is. Once you understand that and can express your vision through an image, you feel pretty bad-ass, and I think that’s important for our young women to feel. So, I want to create a place where women can come to learn the technical skills as a way to get to the juicy stuff: self-expression and creativity.
The course will take place over eight weeks, beginning June 29th, with an online session each week. However, if Margo receives a minimum of 4 students from Los Angeles or San Francisco, she will be able to offer an in-person workshop for additional learning.
I have had interest from all of the States and even France, England, and Morocco! It looks like it’s going to be a global group across all time zones, so I’m really excited about the diversity that will bring to the course.
Ultimately diversity in the commercial photography industry could be a happy consequence of this summer camp. According to an article from The Conversation, only 18% of the Association of Photographers’ accredited members are women. At the same time, research by Equal Lens found that less than 25% of the commercial photographers represented by 70 of the industry’s leading agents are female.
I’ve taught lots of people how to shoot in manual and have given countless critiques and feedback to emerging photographers. But this is the first time I’m creating a specific group for girls and with an overarching goal of empowerment through photography. It feels right, especially after coming out of the Pandemic, I think we all have a lot to express and share, and I want to create this space specifically for the young women of our next generation.
Margo’s decade of professional commercial work combined with her past teaching experience has allowed her to develop an extensive curriculum for the summer. She will begin by teaching many technical photography skills, starting with the basics of shooting in manual before moving on to more complex topics. Margo will walk them through the physics of capturing light, the mathematics of exposure, and the relationships between f-stops and shutter speeds.
Next, they will learn composition + design of the frame, studying different qualities of light, and telling a compelling visual story. Photography requires you to master the camera in your hands and align with the vision in your eyes, so there’s a bigger practice of centering yourself and “seeing.” This feels like a pretty advanced topic to teach, but I’d like to get that far with this pilot group of girls.
Just as a camera is a tool to capture an image, I want the course to be a tool for empowerment. I’d love for them to gain confidence and feel like a BOSS of their camera (a traditionally masculine object) and also have the freedom to capture images that tell their personal story in the world. I want them to leave with the tools they’ve gained and the hunger to learn more and express more. It’s just a launching point for a journey in creativity and self-expression.
If you or someone you know might be interested in participating in Margo Moritz’s summer camp sign up for Girls Photo Club here.
About the Author
Shannon Stewart is a Temple grad with a BA in English. She worked as a Marketing Specialist, a writer, and is now the editor at the art production agency Wonderful Machine. You can connect with Shannon via LinkedIn and follow her on Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.