Inspiring the next generation

Three years ago, John Dominick was invited by a local conservation trust to lead photography workshops for young people, and he hasn’t looked back. He explains why they have become such a rewarding part of his life, and why he’s happy to off er his services for free.

Allowing our images to be used free of charge has always been a somewhat contentious issue among photographers. I confess that I am guilty of this; in fact, four years ago I offered my images to a local rivers trust and they were gratefully received. My reasoning was sound, in that the trust represents something I feel passionate about, and I wanted to contribute in some small way. It seemed only natural to turn to one of the few relevant skills I have.       
At that point I had no idea where this was going to take me, nor did I hold any ambitions or expect reward for my contribution. One year after supplying my images to the trust, however, I was asked if I would consider leading photography workshops for young people as part of a broader, three-year multi-organisation project led by the RSPB. A fee was discussed, but because of my genuine desire to make a contribution to conservation I offered my services on a voluntary basis.      
The workshops were to become a source of immense personal satisfaction, and they have been received very favourably by participants. So far, nearly 200 people between the ages of 10 and 24 have been introduced to wildlife and landscape photography, and have also had their eyes opened to the natural world around them.      
I am now more committed to my voluntary conservation work than ever, as it touches on so many passions in my life. Prior to this experience, like many of us, I held strong views but had little to offer besides the odd image or two. Now that I have seen the power of photography in the engagement of young people, I believe the photography community can make a larger impact in the world of conservation. As necessary as petition signing and fundraising is, it is also vitally important that we actively introduce younger generations to the natural world and the simple joys of outdoor life. If we don’t, then conservation eff orts will ultimately become the preserve of the few and may fail.      
Overall, though, the message is a positive one and I feel there is a very real opportunity to engage and inspire people of all ages, particularly within local areas. People are the key, and the more we begin to cherish the landscapes and wildlife on our doorstep, the greater the chance that conservation eff orts will succeed. Between us, I’m certain we have the knowledge and passion; we just need a strategy to make it happen.

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