MODULE: SURFACES & STRATEGIES.

WEEK 10.

Public Workshop at the Royal Opera House. Summer 2018. Image: James Bellorini

Despite everything else that is occurring in my life at the moment – dealing with funeral arrangements, grief etc – or perhaps because of these, needing to connect with life, growth, to keep creating, to honour the future – I’ve been keen to move forward with some aspects of ‘outreach’ that I discussed in my project proposal at the end of Module 1.

This has included meetings with other potential collaborators including dancers and performers with whom I’m developing tableau vivant ideas, seeing them almost as avatars of my own emotive and thematic drives. More of that in a separate post.

In this post I’m focusing on the developments made with three organisations that I began relationships with during Module 1 – to reiterate them here: CORAM, Body & Soul, and Bromley-by-Bow Centre.

Each of these have asked me to consider developing workshop programmes for them that utilise photography as a basis for creative development, well-being, and to challenge isolation.

As a result of these early discussions, I’ve been drafting program proposals that describe what I believe photography can offer in these potential contexts. Some of that introductory thinking I’m reproducing here because it feels like a renewed personal appreciation of what photography can be. Perhaps that’s simply a return to a radical understanding of photography which may have been obvious to others, but which I had forgotten for myself. I see this as a result of my own ongoing development within the M.A. framework.

So, here’s some of this initial thinking:

It’s my belief that photography offers a huge resource in terms of benefits to individuals, groups and organisations. Those benefits come in the form of creativity, social welfare, relationships, combating isolation, and helping people to become more active in a number of areas of their lives including emotionally, physically, and even economically.

Photography can do this through its ability to empower an individual’s connection to the world around them via a focused engagement with the personal, environmental, geographical, and historical elements of their lives. It provides a sense of ‘witness’ to their lives and the lives of their peers, families, and communities.

The act of framing the world with a camera (of whatever type) is a powerful act of narrative decision-making on the part of the image maker. They are determining what is important in their field of view and excluding what might be surplus at that moment. In this activity the everyday can become symbolic, highly descriptive, and it offers a renewed sense of presence and place. This is important, especially for people who might be struggling with issues of belonging, isolation, and social adjustment. The power of understanding one’s own narrative has the potential to create positive change on an emotional and physical level.

Another core power of photography is its relationship to storytelling and narrative in a multitude of contexts and outputs. It is a medium that can be utilised by participants, and presented to an audience, in a variety of creative, fun, and expansive ways – exhibitions are often only a starting point for the public reception of photography, even more so when a community is given the opportunity to explore and expand its own narrative.

It is the aim of this project to unite these narrative aspects of photography with the elements of connectivity to the world to create a creative context for personal development.

Alongside defining actual programme content and structures, which I’m not going to reproduce here as it’s specific to each organisation and still in development, it has been interesting to consider potential outcomes of the programmes, especially where we are seeking to quantify the impact on an individual or community, including:

  • Challenging social labels and definitions e.g. ‘poor’, ‘isolated’, ‘immigrant’ etc. This is so much more powerful than I had fully realised when I began this process.
  • Well-being – through relationship building, communication skills, self-expression, a deeper connection to a persons environment.
  • Community Strengthening – through a shared experience and goal such as an exhibition.

There are also the transferable skills that photography provides such as communication, confidence, technical precision, as well as computer and software skills and learning through the use of programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop.

It’s been a huge privilege to be allowed to develop these ideas alongside organisations that are attempting to prove the value of creative endeavours and offering opportunities for growth and development; to engage in discussions about what photography can offer, and to witness my own responses to these discussions. Responses that are showing me just how deep my own love for the medium, and it’s power to connect people, goes.