The story behind A Year With My Camera

Did you learn photography in the 1980s? Was Practical Photography magazine your only source of lessons? It was for me. I was 13 years old and - because of the shots they used to illustrate their lessons - I thought I needed to find a lady who would pose with no top on so I could learn how to do softly focussed, slightly orange, glamour shoots. Which apparently was the thing an amateur photographer should aspire to back in the day. Why was that ever considered normal?

pp mag.jpg

It was a long, long time (20 years?) before I could go back to my 13 year old self and say, "Don't worry. These days will pass. Glamour shoots will become seedy. The world of photography will come full circle and you will be shooting hygge, trying to be Scandinavian in a warm blanket."

One thing hasn't changed though - the way photography is taught. The overwhelming majority of photography teachers are men. And, fair enough, they teach how they would like to learn - competitively, and with lots of talk about kit. These are the people who taught me photography, and this is not a criticism, just an observation - they are world-class photographers, competition winners and I am honoured to have met them.

This month I am reading Tara Mohr's Playing Big. She helps women to stop having small, manageable, safe ambitions, and to start to be bold, take risks and change the world. She says we each have a calling, and as I read I realised my calling is this: to teach beginner's photography to apprehensive women who are put off by kit-centric, competitive classes.

A Year With My Camera is now officially playing big: it is the best (the only?) beginner's photography course for women who are fed up of being patronised, worried they won't know what to do with the dials, but know deep down they have photos they need to take.

I never did photograph a topless lady. (Thank goodness. What were they thinking?) I didn't let PP put me off loving my camera. I didn't listen to the people who told me not to self publish. I was lucky to find Aspire Photography Training run by the wonderful Catherine Connor at a critical point in my photography career - armed with the confidence that is dished out as standard on their training I embarked on my quest to change the way photography is taught.

As of today, more than 5,000 people have done A Year With My Camera.

Most importantly I have given the gift of confidence and self expression to many women (and a few men) who had been too fearful to try. Thank you to all my students who have opened the emails every week, done their homework, been brave and shared their photos, made progress, and finally taken a photo they are proud of.

Doing the course has been life enhancing for me in ways that I didn’t imagine when I first signed up
— Recent feedback from a student doing AYWMC

Want to join us? Register here for the workshop - you'll get a free email every Thursday:

Emma Davies