mailout photography and identity 22
Rebuilding Identities Photos this page:
&#xA9; Chalak / New Londoners / Dost / PhotoVoice
&#x201C;The photos I have taken have been put together to show
how my thoughts are. Always in twos, for every happy
thought an unhappy thought. For every time I think of being here, I think of there. Wanting to be here but missing there&#x201D;
I am from Kirkuk in Iraq. In Kirkuk, the people are poor,
but the city is rich, it is first in the world for petrol.
When I first started PhotoVoice workshops, I
didn&#x2019;t know anything about photography. I like
photography because it is like telling a story. I have many good ideas of photographs I
want to take, but I still haven&#x2019;t been able to take the
photographs that are in my
mind. When I will be happy, I will be able to take those photos.
PhotoVoice projects are about identity. Photography allows us a chance to play with who we are, what we have been and what we dream of becoming. It interlinks our sense of self to memories of a past and aspirations of a future. In creating photographs we connect ourselves to the world and to each other. We tell stories of who we are.
Young refugees arriving and building their lives in the UK have much to cope with. They often do not speak the language, face social isolation, struggle to access services and navigate asylum procedures. They may live in poor housing, be dealing with loss, bereavement and separation from friends and family, medical and mental health issues and culture shock as they adjust to new ways of doing things. Despite these obstacles many young people adjust quickly and demonstrate considerable resilience. With the aim of supporting their integration,
&#x201C;I have really enjoyed taking these photos. Through photography I have looked at things more deeply, like looking into my life and seeing how to move on. Choosing the photos that go together is like chemistry. You mix chemicals together to find the different elements that give a result. Something about them makes me think of how music links people&#x2019;s lives, the way these photos link with mine. Photography has been a therapy for me, I learnt to break free.&#x201D; Loria
PhotoVoice projects look to provide creative opportunities for these young people to play, explore and re- build a sense of self as they make a new home in the UK.
PhotoVoice has been running award winning projects with separated refugee youth in London since 2002. Its latest project Moving Lives ran from 2006 until the end of 2008 culminating in the publication of New Londoners: Reflections on Home. New Londoners was a mentoring scheme that was run in partnership with Project DOST. It began in 2007 when 15 young refugees were partnered with 15 emerging and successful London photographers. The young people, aged 16 to 23, came from 10 different countries, with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Some had been in the UK for just a few months when they joined the project, others for as long as six years. They had all been participants on previous PhotoVoice projects and were selected as mentees because of their interest in continuing their photography. PhotoVoice had worked in this way before &#x2013; partnering individual participants with photographers &#x2013; but never for long periods of time, infact never usually for longer than a day or two. More commonly, PhotoVoice works in workshop contexts, with a few facilitators and a large group of young people of up to 15 participants.
The main focus of the mentoring relationship was the production of a creative body of work by the young person. The &#x2018;creative brief&#x2019; for the mentees was a relatively open one: to make a body of photographic work and writing on any aspect of the theme of New Londoners. The mentors and mentees worked together for around four months. The mentees would mostly take the pictures while on their own, and the mentor would give regular feedback and suggestions. The role of the mentor was to support, affirm, advise, enthuse and encourage the mentee to bring their photographic ideas to life.
The young people photographed the things immediately around them, the details of the everyday, small observations, things that appealed to them or were important to them. Others embarked on more complex constructed shoots and portraiture projects. The images become part of the ongoing conversation they were having with their new home, as they learnt to live and settle in London.
The young people&#x2019;s stories were brought together in a photography book, New Londoners: Reflections on Home. Their pictures and stories are diverse but overall the book&#x2019;s theme is about young people in transition: from childhood to adulthood; from dependence to independence; from one place and culture to another. It is a poetic record of fifteen young
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