January 2010: JET Effect Spotlight

Shutterbugs Photography Group

Nicole Chapman (3rd year ALT in Komono Town, Mie Prefecture) can always been seen with at least one camera in her bag. Since taking her first black and white photography class back in High School she has been obsessed with photography.

She says: “I love photography, and I love my town and the people of Komono. It seemed only right that somehow these two loves could combine. After spending about a year and a half trying to find an established club of some kind, I decided to simply make my own. I appealed to people I knew within the community who were interested in photography as well as to people who attended the Komono Town CIR’s English classes.”

The participants range from Elementary School students to retired people. What is unique about this club, is that it is taught in English. The members meet once a month at a local restaurant that is usually empty. Some come early and have lunch with Nicole, and others who only want to talk about photos come on time and just have a coffee or juice. In general 6~9 people turn up. One other JET attends consistently, but all other regular members are Japanese people. Invites are sent out regularly to other JETs in the prefecture as well as non-JET foreigners in the area, so every month there are regular attendants mixed with new members.

Nicole’s advice for others wishing to start a similar programme is “if you have something you have been thinking about doing, just take the plunge and do it.  When I started my club I admittedly didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know if people would show up, if the place I was thinking of holding it at would be accommodating, how many photos to tell people to bring, how to construct the meetings etc. But I did it anyway. And to my surprise twice as many people as expected showed up, the cafe was more than happy with the patronage, and by the third meeting I had figured out how many pictures to request and how to teach the class. The start of anything new will probably never be as perfect as you would like, but you can smooth out the wrinkles later, and an imperfect beginning to something is better than no beginning at all.”

Check out Nicole’s Blog on http://nicoleinjapan.aminus3.com. To get in touch with Nicole or the team at JET Effect for advice or more information, or to nominate a great project that deserves to be spotlighted in JET Effect, send an e-mail to and we will point you in the right direction.