A photography exhibition by photographers who have experienced homelessness at Old Diorama Arts Centre in London today.
Simply titled "seven", it goes beyond the annual MyLondon Photo Project, in that the photographers were using digital and mirrorless DSLR cameras.
The group (the official title is the Royal Photographic Society Cafe Art Mentoring Group) is made up of seven previous winning MyLondon photographers, and all had photos in the annual calendars. The mentoring group was set up in 2015 by Neil Cordell from the RPS.
Mo Grieg, who took over the running of the group earlier this year and ran the 2018 project, explains how the project was run: “In the past we had photo walks. Neil and I had been doing that for some time. We would go out and take pictures and come back and critique them. We felt that it was time to take a step up. We put together a mini-course with a set number of lessons. We wanted [participants] to make a commitment."
Mo explains that the overall goal was "not just the images", but to help people with their lives as well. "You have a beginning and an end. You have to commit to time, and you have to produce something at the end of it."
Mo, who has volunteered with the mentoring group for several years and has done PhotoVoice training, said they decided on an eight session project.
"The sessions were run every fortnight. Five of those sessions were about learning. We did presentations and we taught them technical skills, such as lighting, composition, how to set the camera, what all the settings are, how to use the camera and how to use it artistically. We went over the use of long and slow shutter speed, what the aperture was and how that affects work – the pictures that you take."
The last of the first five sessions was on how to create a project said Mo. "That the project is a set of images, that work together, there is a beginning and an end and a middle. They can tell a story, or they are a series, but they “work”.
"The final three sessions – it was really three weeks [as they could take the cameras home] - they could take as many pictures as they liked but then what they had to do is they had to come back with 20 images. They cut it down to 20 images so they could learn about editing. From those 20 images, they had to select five images that told their story, that was their project. That had to work together, and we spent some time with them doing that. For many of them it was very difficult.
"First of all they thought I was going to tell them what to take pictures of. I said, 'No, this is your project.' That was difficult as well. Some got there faster than others. At the end of the day they all put together wonderful projects and they actually work when you see them on the wall. We also wanted to “finish it” with an exhibition.
"We wanted them to have something tangible because when we’ve been doing the photo walks it was like the photos disappeared into Neil’s laptop, and they didn’t see them anymore. We’ve done all this hard work. We’ve had tears and tantrums, but at the end of it, when they come along [to see it finally hung] I think… what I wanted was for them to have this sense of achievement, a sense of actually having completed something. That, for me, was one of the most important things about doing this. And it was a cohesive body of work, it wasn’t just random. So I think those skills transfer to all sorts of things, and I hope they will be proud of it.”
The photographers are: David Henry Fussell, Geraldine Crimmins, Goska Calik, Lou Danby, Maya Simeon, Saffron Saidi and Siliana. The exhibition is in Old Diorama Arts Centre, 201 Drummond Street, London, NW1 3FE and runs until 10 November.
See Gallery here https://www.cafeart.org.uk/artist-mentoring