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for Women Measure). We began the photography sessions by viewing a
photography project documenting the lives of female migrant workers in
Singapore, which sparked a lot of interest and animated discussion. The women in
the group related strongly to these images, so they could readily see the
connection between the issues, emotions and experiences conveyed and the
composition and lighting that had been utilised by the photographer.
Technical sessions followed, teaching the group about the use of light and
composition. They then began a self-directed black and white documentary
project. Their brief was to document their leisure time, an important part of their
lives that they felt was little valued by their employers. What emerged illustrated a
real diversity of migrant experiences. They covered everything from personal
images of friendships to private moments of contemplation; shots of Dublin’s city
streets to loving images of family in Ireland and abroad. These projects were edited
during critique groups with four or five women at a time. Meeting the women in
small groups, I really began to appreciate the opportunity to form new friendships
within cultures that were previously at a distance from my own everyday
experience.
Photo credit: Members of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s Domestic Workers Support Group.
During initial meetings with Edel, we agreed that the staged format and staging
process offered a unique way to truly collaborate where the women could publicly
address complex issues of particular concern such as lack of privacy, isolation, social
control, racism, manipulation and unclear boundaries in relation to working hours.
At the same time I could stay true to, and further develop, my own working
methods and artistic practice. Originally, the staging of the images was to be
combined with a documentary portrait aesthetic where the subjects of the
photographs (the women themselves) would look directly into the camera and so
be directly engaged in a relationship with the viewer. However during the course of
the collaborative process the emphasis in the work changed, making this
documentary portrait aesthetic unsuitable.
One of the key aims of the Domestic Workers Support Group is training and skills
development so this also became an important factor in the way the project was
structured. The Domestic Workers Support Group was already meeting one Sunday
of every month at The Teacher's Club in Parnell Square (supported by the Equality
Photo credit: Members of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s Domestic Workers Support Group.
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