My St Pauls Community Photography Project
Between June 2018 and March 2019 the Real Photography Company was busy working with four local community groups and introducing them to the delights of darkroom-based photography:
Over 50's Photography Group
Working with Judith Davis from Bristol Ageing Better, we engaged our first group, people aged over 50, who did some amazing work over Summer 2018. We kicked off with a couple of fun Taster Sessions, led by Ruth Jacobs and Justin Quinnell, making photograms and pinhole camera photos. Then participants used disposable black and white cameras to take pictures at St Pauls Carnival, and over the following weeks we developed film and made beautiful black and white prints in our darkrooms. Photos were then mounted and framed and exhibited in Glen's Cafe, inside the Learning Centre, and also outside as a series of huge posters for all the community to see, in the first outdoor art exhibition to take place in St Pauls. We invited project participants and friends to a well attended celebration event to launch the exhibition, which generated a lot of interest!
Refugees and Asylum Seekers Photography Group
In Autumn 2018 we collaborated with Bristol Refugee Rights and invited a group of Refugees and Asylum Seekers to get involved in a new project. Justin Quinnell led an exciting Taster Session where we experimented with pinhole cameras, and made pinhole selfies. The following week Ruth Jacobs led a photo-walk to nearby St Pauls Gardens to practise photographic composition using film cameras. Everyone then used disposable cameras to take photos of their choice over the next week. Over the rest of the sessions we processed film and made a series of black and white prints in the darkroom. Participants enjoyed the creative experience and were thrilled when we gave out certificates at the end of the project to recognise their achievements. Photos produced by this group were exhibited at the Vestibules, City Hall, for Bristol Refugee Festival, June 2019.
DHI (Developing Health and Independence) Photography Group
Starting in January 2019 we embarked on a new community project with DHI, who work with people recovering from addictions. Group sessions were led by Ruth Jacobs, Justin Quinnell and Wendy Leocque, and we started off with a Taster Session making Cyanotypes and Photograms to introduce the group to darkroom techniques and light sensitive materials. We gave the group disposable black and white cameras for people to take photos over the next week, documenting their lives and places they went. In the following sessions we set to work processing film and printing photos in the darkroom. Participants were excited by the analogue process and the darkroom environment, calling it 'magical'. Selected images made by this group will be part of a permanent outdoor photo-wall at St Pauls Learning Centre.
Young Asylum Seekers Photography Group
The final group we worked with on this project were young unaccompanied asylum seekers, in collaboration with Art Refuge UK. These were teenage boys who had recently arrived in Britain as a result of war and persecution. They had endured traumatic events and had no families, so they were very vulnerable. The group needed a lot of support and we are grateful to Anna Kalin, Art Therapist, and Rashid Awan, Interpreter. We used pinhole cameras, and the boys took photos using disposable cameras, developed film and made prints. Photos produced by this group were exhibited at the Vestibules, City Hall, for Bristol Refugee Festival, June 2019.
My St Pauls Community Photography Project was funded by Bristol City Council through the Originators Fund, which enabled us to engage participants and provide photography tuition, darkroom facilities, and cameras free of charge.
UWE (University of the West of England) Volunteers
To provide extra support for our project participants we encouraged students on BA and MA Photography courses at UWE to get involved as volunteers. This helped us in the delivery of activities, and gave students opportunities to gain experience working on creative community projects. Some of the students are now benefitting from further opportunities and paid work, eg. providing 1:1 tuition for darkroom members, leading their own photographic workshops, and delivering talks about their photographic practise as part of our Photo-Social Programme. Student opportunities are supported by UWE Community Fund and Quartet.