Mercy Works: The Camera App
Mercy Work’s Mercy Connect has used technology to foster a connection with two schools from different parts of Sydney.
Most Australians carry around a device, usually a smartphone, that can access the internet, track our locations, carry digital wallets and take photos. It is quite remarkable how connected we are to technology each day. In 2019 Mercy Connect had the idea to build on this relationship with technology to foster a human connection between two schools from quite different parts of Sydney.
The project, which first took place in May 2019, gave students from two different schools the opportunity to meet and connect with someone new and to explore and photograph a new city together using their smartphones. In 2020 the global pandemic derailed any hopes of holding this event. This year, however, it’s all systems go for the students of Mary Mackillop Catholic College and Monte Sant’Angelo, North Sydney to meet, learn how to use their smartphones to take better photos and explore Parramatta together.
Monday 3rd May 2021
As the city of Parramatta slowly emerged from the fog that had encased it overnight, students from Mary Mackillop and Monte Sant’ Angelo made their way to the Mercy Works offices on Victoria Road for the Mercy Connect Photography Day. If the cold air didn’t wake them up, the walk up to the third floor of the building certainly did.
After the students filed into the board room one by one and settling down, the small talk began. The very first sparks in a new connection started to flicker around the room. The day commenced with a small welcome from Sister Sally Bradley and an introduction about Mercy Works before jumping straight into learning about smartphone camera apps. Ground rules were lain down with a strict no selfie rule imposed for the day. The group learned about the startling exponential growth digital photo taking has seen in the past decade and how apps such as Tik Tok, Snapchat and Instagram have seized our fascination and taken ideation of the camera to new heights.
After a very informative short presentation on how to take better photos with their phone, the students paired up (one from each school) and headed out on their walking tour of Parramatta.
With so much at our fingertips, we often have a basic understanding about how to use these devices but we often overlook cheats, shortcuts, tips or tricks that would make our user experience easier and produce better photos.
Simple changes to camera settings can make the photos taken so much better than they were before. Photos are just a snapshot of what we see, the picture is always bigger than our screen. Altering the way you look at the world can happen in an instance or over time but through the lens of a camera you find you can freeze time forever in pixels.
Connecting these students to bring out the best in their imagination is the ultimate achievement of the day. Improving their photo-taking skills and familiarity with the devices they carry around with them every day is just a bonus.
Having just over an hour to walk around the many streets of Parramatta and explore the sights, the girls had the chance to further fan the first sparks of connection and bond over taking photos of the things they found intriguing. Coming together over shared interests created an almost instant connection. It was a delight to see these groups of students who had only just met interact like they had known each other for years.
Setting off in several directions exploring different parts of the city, some groups headed for the city centre walking down Church Street while others crossed O’Connell Street and headed towards the Stadium and Parramatta Park. Wandering around the sights of Parramatta taking pictures of various locations and buildings that captured their imagination was a most important part of the day as the girls chatted and decided the best scenes to photograph.
Once back together in the boardroom after lunch the students discussed and reflected on their journey. Sharing photos and their experiences with each other was a revelation for everyone. Seeing things differently from others is what makes life experience unique and being able to see another’s perspective of the same thing brought the students closer, observing through the lens of the other person, finding common ground and overcoming slight differences in what they saw.
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