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Ilford photographer offers free lessons to children during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:17 28 October 2020

Rai McLaren - pictured with some of his students during a recent photo walk - has been offering free photography lessons to Redbridge kids during lockdown. Picture: Rai McLaren

Rai McLaren - pictured with some of his students during a recent photo walk - has been offering free photography lessons to Redbridge kids during lockdown. Picture: Rai McLaren

Archant

A photographer from Ilford has been offering free lessons to children since the beginning of lockdown.

An example of one student's work following their lessons with Rai, who has been a photographer for the past four years following a freak accident which prompted him to buy his first camera. Picture: Rai McLarenAn example of one student's work following their lessons with Rai, who has been a photographer for the past four years following a freak accident which prompted him to buy his first camera. Picture: Rai McLaren

Rai McLaren, 40, decided to put his expertise to good use after seeing recurring comments on parents’ Facebook groups about youngsters being bored at home.

With most emphasising that they wanted their children to have an educational hobby, Rai had a brainwave.

“I thought offering to teach the basics of photography would be really good for the kids and their parents. Most people have a phone or something that can take pictures. It’s important that you don’t need a really expensive camera.”

When Rai pitched the idea, he modestly predicted around 20 responses. More than 60 parents got in touch.

Rai's son Rayaan, now 17 months old, has also featured in his photograhy. Picture: Rai McLarenRai's son Rayaan, now 17 months old, has also featured in his photograhy. Picture: Rai McLaren

From there a core group of eight children — aged between seven and 12 — have remained, each taking part in online lessons also attended by parents.

Because there are “limitations on what can be taught remotely”, the group recently did a photo walk around Valentines Park, which Rai says was a great opportunity to see the children’s passion in a real-life setting.

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Buoyed by his students’ progress, he is happy to teach “until the kids don’t want to do it anymore”.

As someone who grew up in a single-parent family, Rai can relate to youngsters who “grow up with fewer opportunities”.

This — coupled with other factors, including being a new father — really focused his mind on making the lessons free.

He said: “My wife was made redundant at the start of lockdown, so I was conscious that there may be other parents in that position too.”

He laughs that while 17-month-old Rayaan isn’t quite ready to pick up a camera yet, dad will be on hand should he wish to do so.

Rai only found photography in 2016 after an accident saw him buy his first camera.

“I broke my arm four weeks before I was meant to go on a scuba-diving holiday in Bali. The insurance company said I could still fly, so I went and bought a camera to have something to do while my cast was on. I spent the first week wondering how it worked!”

Four years on, he is putting his accidentally-acquired skill to the best possible use.

To view Rai’s portfolio, visit rmclarenphotography.com/.


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