Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

This post looks at another context occurring around my practice at the moment.

At the risk of repeating myself from earlier CRJ posts, I’ve been working with the community organisation Bromley-By-Bow Centre (BBBC) since my first module when I created some work for the Refugee Week 2019 project COHERE which showed at Home in Manchester, the V&A, and ultimately at Hull International Photography Festival. This initial work formed some of the earliest thinking and explorations for my overall MA project practice.

Since then I’ve gone on to work with three regular collaborators (Sue, Layla, and Claude) for the M.A. These creative relationships are ongoing and I’m continuing to create portrait-based work with them, some of which can be seen in my earlier module work-in-progress portfolios. But here are a couple of examples made during the M.A. module Sustainable Prospects:

CLAUDE & LAYLA – BROMLEY-BY-BOW (images from Sustainable Prospects module).
Copyright James Bellorini 2019.

As a way of thanking them for this, I offered to run an informal storytelling-through-photography workshop for any interested parties at BBBC as they have a strong arts based outreach department. The organisation leapt at this opportunity and went one step further by committing to making the arrangement formal by finding funding for a 12 week series of workshops, led by me, and resulting in an exhibition for the participants, thereby making it a more permanent feature of their curriculum. The group is made up of about 8 participants, though this fluctuates week-to-week.

We began the course on a bi-weekly basis January in good faith and the funding came through this week.

PRESENTATION ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHERS (including Edward Weston Pepper 30).
Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

The course is based around the accessibility and ease with which photography can become part of their daily lives, offering them the opportunity to see their worlds in new ways and to explore their own sense of belonging. The work is predominantly based on using mobile phones as a photographic tool (although one or two participants do have bridge cameras). I’ve structured the course in a deliberately non-technical way, focusing more on ways of seeing rather than too much detail on shutter speed, aperture etc. To date, I’ve structured them as follows:

  • Week 1: Your Tools – The Wide View
  • Week 2: Your Tools – The Close-Up or Macro View
  • Week 3: Your Tools – The Portrait
  • Week 4: Your Tools -The Frame
  • Week 5: What’s Your Story?

Each week I’ve then set an assignment based on the theme of the session, to explore those tools of ‘looking’.

In Week 5 (last week) I introduced some photographers as exemplars as it were, of the four ‘Tools’ given in the previous sessions. I presented them with images by Robert Adams, Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, Edward Weston and others. It was quite amazing to see them respond to these photographers, to have their eyes opened by the possibilities of what can be achieved with photography. The surprise ‘hits’ were Cindy Sherman and Edward Weston and the resulting discussions about the fundamentals of the different types of looking (or gazes) available to them through photography was actually very powerful and moving.

Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

So, the ultimate aim is to exhibit their work in their community, probably at the Centre itself in the summer. Though we are also looking further afield at the Carpenter’s Wharf Gallery in Hackney. I’m sure I will return to this as time progresses as there may be a way that I combine their work with my own M.A. FMP – I need to discuss that further with my course leaders.

As a side note in terms of my own practice, I’ve had to start using my mobile phone to make images so that I am up to speed with what is achievable with this format. I’ve not used a mobile phone ‘seriously’ as a photographic tool, but it has been a useful learning curve and contributed to some of my practice thinking, as well as leading to me to make visual ‘sketches’ and ideas through the phone camera and editing apps which I have discussed elsewhere on this CRJ.

To conclude, what is undeniable is being witness to people, who are not engaged in photography in the way that I am, achieving a growing awareness about what photography can do, what it is, and how it can increase their connection with and understanding of the world around them.