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MyManchester exhibition opens


Manchester’s largest homelessness day centre, the Booth Centre, launched the MyManchester exhibition last week, featuring photos of Manchester taken by people affected by homelessness on single-use cameras in January.  We are proud to say that the exhibition, in Manchester bookshop / art gallery Chapter One, was inspired by Café Art’s MyLondon and MinhaSao Paulo calendar projects and is officially partnered with Café Art. Three local businesswomen created MyManchester, inspired by Café Art’s MyLondon. However photographer Charlotte Graham partnered with Alessandra Mostyn and Beth Knowles, directors of Symmetry Creative, a creative communications and design studio, have made it very much their own project.

Following workshops to explain photography and how to select the exhibition in January and February (above) the MyManchester exhibition opened on 2 March.

For Café Art it’s a perfect way to see how the method can be successfully downsized, using fewer participants and having just an exhibition. Since our MyLondon project went viral last year we have been in communication with more than a dozen cites around the world and we are very keen to pass on the learnings from Manchester to them so they can decide which model will work for them. Twenty people affected by homelessness received photography training from Charlotte Graham and were given single-use cameras and asked to take photos of their city over several days. When the film was developed and the photos ready, Neil Cordell from The Royal Photographic Society (and organiser of the new Café Art photography mentoring group for people affected by homelessness) came up from London with me to help guide participants selecting their favourite photos for the exhibition in early February. From 20 cameras handed out, 15 were returned and processed, with 10 photos chosen by 10 participants to be enlarged and exhibited in an exhibition at Chapter One. The exhibition, which opened on Tuesday 1 March and runs until 1 April, also features a photo wall of smaller photo and a life-sized statue of a homeless person, “Mr Streetwise” by Danny Collins.

Andy, 45, originally from Poland, came to this country for personal reasons but found himself in a hostel in Blackpool, where he was soon robbed – including of his prized camera, which he had at one time used semi-professionally. In debt and struggling with setting up a bank account, he ended up on the streets for two years. This image of a nearly-empty stash of M.E.N’s appealed to him, he says. “It was a day on which there was heavy rain and usually you can see people with their free edition. “But it was just the wrapper with the waterproof thing and I was thinking it was a nice contrast for me, especially as it was near the library.” At one point he had been pretty depressed, he admits, but the photography project has given him new hope. “I got down, but now I think I might get some opportunity. You have this feeling the community is finally going to see your work.” Photo: Manchester Evening News.

  Amanda Croome, Booth Centre Chief Executive Officer, said that the stories from the participants, which accompany each enlargement in the exhibition, were important: “They just talked a little bit about either that specific picture or about their lives and a bit about why they enjoyed taking the pictures. So that was a really nice session where people shared their stories. To have that with the picture it makes it much more powerful.” Croome and Knowles, represented Manchester’s Booth Centre on a With One Voice cultural exchange to Brazil in November. For the exchange Knowles, who is a Labour & Co-operative Councillor for Manchester city centre, represented the Manchester Council. They both joined other representatives from UK homelessness organisations including Paul Ryan from Café Art who ran the Minha Sao Paulo (‘My Sao Paulo’) project there. Minha Sao Paulo was a larger project, and like MyLondon involved 100 people receiving 100 cameras to take photo of their city and it also resulted in a calendar. The Sao Paulo project was organised by Streetwise Opera‘s With One Voice and The People’s Palace Projects with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK and The British Council. Knowles says that keeping the MyManchester project small has worked. “It depends on the [size of the] organisation. If there were five people who want to do it, we would do it with five, and focus on how many people want to be involved rather than getting as many cameras out as possible.”

Dariusz, 41, also from Poland, was one of a band of Eastern European workers illegally trafficked into the country by a gang of travellers several years ago. Eventually the traffickers were busted by police and the workers were freed from the menial labour they had been doing in towns and cities across the country. But with nowhere to go, Dariusz ended up on the streets of Manchester for a year. He is now staying at the night stop homeless shelter but at one time he was sleeping wherever he could lay his head – under bridges in Salford, wherever was available. Dariusz does not speak much English, but Andy explains that he took his picture of the war memorial because he has a particular love of the city’s gothic history and architecture. The project was particularly enjoyable for him – as back in Poland he was a keen photographer. Photo: Manchester Evening News.

MyManchester, inspired by and partnered with Café Art’s MyLondon, was created by photographer Charlotte Graham, Alessandra Mostyn (right) and Beth Knowles (centre), directors of Symmetry Creative working closely with Amanda Croome and the Booth Centre participants. Photo: Cafe Art.

When asked about what made it so successful Knowles said the project wouldn’t have happened without the support of Café Art and the Booth Centre. “You need to find the [homelessness sector] organisation you want to work with. That’s the foundation you need to build off I think. I would say don’t try to make something bigger than it needs to be. Just keep it at the level that people are comfortable with.” Croome added “What made it really valuable was the workshops about photography.” The project only cost The Booth Centre £350 says Croome. The most expensive costs were buying the single use cameras and the developing. Knowles stressed the importance of creating relationships with other partners, stressing the huge support they received from the local photo developing shop Jessops who gave huge discounts. See the exhibition at Chapter One Books, 19 Lever Street, Manchester until 1 April. If you would like to host the exhibition in Manchester, discuss your organisation being involved in the MyManchester project, or help with sponsorship for future workshops please get in touch If you would like advice about doing a similar project in any other city contact

Peter. This is a shot of the Urbis Building in Manchester city centre.

Tom Carr. Tom's photographs are all taken in the area around a railway arch in Manchester city centre where he spends his days and nights. His photos are of the architecture, the people and every day life passing by.

Steve Scallon. Steve said the art gallery where this was taken wouldn't allow him to have the flash on the camera on, adding there were lots of obstacles and 3D work in the gallery. He said he decide to "work with the light [there], thinking or alternatives to the flash." He chose Manchester Art Gallery "because it's so peaceful. I find it relaxing, and it was raining outside." Steve attends the art class at the Booth Centre each week and has a talent for sketching, which is his passion. Steve had been going to the Manchester Art Gallery for the past 10 years. Along with his visits to the Central Library he says "it's a force of habit" and helps his peace of mind.

Phil B. "I looked at all of these different people passing through Manchester... It's due to the people themselves that I photographed them. The photos are stories of people." Phil is a born and bred Yorkshireman who has moved around the North. Phil ended up doing probation in Manchester where he has been living in night shelters. Every day he goes to the Booth Centre where he picked up the camera, taking photos on a route to McDonald's.

Andy Twarog. "I took this shot of the papers because the colour stands out. It was rush hour, just before the rain and this captures a moment of calm both before the rain and chaos started." Andy, originally from Poland, was a semi-professional photographer. However after moving to the UK he was robbed and his camera stolen. He feels the exhibition will give him the opportunity to explore photography again and has a feeling the community is finally going to see his work.

Danny Collins. Danny, 60, originally from Liverpool, was on the streets for four and a half years after suffering a breakdown. He was finally housed four and a half months ago. His sculpture of a homeless man – Mr Streetwise – aims to get people thinking about homelessness. “It was something I’d had in the back of my mind for some time. I put it to Amanda at the Booth Centre and the staff and it went from there. It’s mixed art, because apart from the statue, which represents the homeless, it also has poetry which is all written by homeless people.”

Brian Bristow. "This image of Oxford Road is part of my walk in to Manchester every day, to places like The Mustard Tree and The Booth Centre." Brian has lived in Manchester for all of his life. He grew up in Gorton and has lived there for 49 years. "All of my images are personal to me. They're about how I moved on from those places. They're my memories, that's what these photos are to me. They are my Manchester."

Dariusz Pulc. "I visit this monument every day. The history behind it is very interesting. I love this city's Gothic history and architecture. this has been my view every day since I arrived from Poland."

Margaret. "I took my favourite image in Platt Fields Park. I love this lake and liked the lines and reflections. It rained almost all weekend while we were trying to take photos, but that's our Manchester too."

Barry Lundy. Barry too a series of photos on his way home after a night working in a night shelter. "The woman's image in the street art photo just caught my eye, her gaze was haunting and I just thought that's got to be a picture." Barry is from Crumpsall, but grew up in Rhodesia (nw Zimbabwe). After serving in the Rhodesian army he came back to Manchester and had been working as a mechanic for the past 20 years.

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