Real lives



Through a Child’s Lens

Children’s Photos Send Message to End Violence

Edmel Amance, 12 yrs old, brightened their mood with his photo of three boys in a dumpsite: “I felt happy because even though they are suffering from poor living conditions, they are still very happy that they are together.”

Edmel Amance, 12, is the eldest of five boys and lives with his mother in Cebu City. He likes dancing, rapping, and wants to learn the guitar someday. One of the participants of a UNICEF photography workshop for high school students, Edmel is excited to discover the power of photography. One of his memorable photos is of three smiling boys at the Inayawan dumpsite.

“I was inspired by them, even if they are very poor, they are still happy. It’s ok for them because they make a living there, they look for junk like plastics, and sell it in the junkshop,” says Edmel.

The photography workshop was held by Italian photographer Giacomo Pirozzi who has been documenting children’s lives around the world for UNICEF for two decades. The participants were ten boys and ten girls, ages 12 to 16, living in Cebu’s city and upland areas. It was organized as part of UNICEF goals to raise awareness on the sensitive issue of violence against children (VAC). The information campaign launched by UNICEF in the Philippines is called “Children Against Violence” to send the message that children must have the opportunity to express their views and opinions about violence. 

“When we started the workshop many children associate the need to possess a camera to the fun part of it. We need a camera for anniversaries, parties, to take photos of friends. We are in the Facebook era and children love to share images. In the workshop, we say we do not want to use cameras like tourists, we want to think before we shoot, we want the image to carry a message,” says Pirozzi.

Photos with a message
He begins the workshop by showing photos of children from various cultures and situations around the world. “It does not matter if they are in Africa or Latin America, children relate to other children, they want to hear their stories and they identify with them. When it comes to ask children and what they want to photograph, they immediately want to talk about themselves, their world, their reality,” he says.

The five-day workshop includes an educational session on violence by Ani Saguisag, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist who talks about verbal, physical, and and violence in the school setting, including topics of bullying and corporal punishment.

Pirozzi also lectures on composition, framing, direction and quantity of light. “I heard of other similar workshops where children are given cameras and sent to take photos without any training,” he says. “I think children get discouraged very soon because of the first results, normally poor because of lack of basic knowledge. If they use the tips they learn during the workshop, they get more motivated, they see the results and they are excited and ready to continue.”

On Location
The children are divided into groups to go on field visits to the Barangay Ermita commuity near the Carbon public market and the Inawayan dumpsite. Others visit school grounds, downtown streets, and children’s institutions.

Judilyn Sagusoy, 15, admits that at first she was not interested in photography. After joining the workshop, her view has changed. “Now I have a knowledge of children, and how can I help them by photography. In a very simple picture but very meaningful, you can know what is the situation of the children. Many people don’t care about children… for them, children are not important. We must tell them about children’s rights and how they are violating children’s rights,” she says.

Captioning and editing
Captioning the photos was also an essential part of the process as it allowed the children to express their feelings when they took a photo. As Pirozzi says, “One subject can be photographed by several children, but each child has a different reason for taking it.”

Although the Cebu workshop theme of violence was a challenging one, he thinks the group was able to come up with outstanding results.  “It was a great group of motivated kids. I loved to work with this group and the themes they have chosen were serious and difficult but they were able to combine great images to interesting stories.”

“I find Filipino children special when it comes to visual arts. All the children we had in the Cebu workshop did not own a camera and did not receive any training before but when I show the image they took, people do not believe they were taken by children,” he shares.

Many of the participants were inspired to continue the use of the camera as a tool for expressing their reality, especially in helping address the situation of children less fortunate than themselves. The children’s photos are featured in an exhibition “Through A Child’s Lens”, launched on the heels of a baseline study, Towards A Child-Friendly Education Environment which released findings on violence in public schools and gives information to aid legislators, media practitioners and the public sector on the issue of violence against children.

Violence against children can occur in different settings— in schools, at home, on the streets, in communities, places of work, and on the internet. The physical, emotional and psychological scars of violence can rob children of their basic human rights. Through the exhibit, UNICEF hopes to empower young people to raise awareness on the violence they experience.

To know more about UNICEF's work for children, visit




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