Whenever I am asked what I like to take pictures of, I hesitate. To be out taking images wherever I happen to be is a most exhilarating experience. Initially my work with the Catching Lives Open Day Centre in Canterbury started as a documentary of their activities, but has since developed into looking at the lives of some of the clients who are helped there. Through photography, I have heard their stories, learned about some of the challenges they face, together with their aspirations for the future.
The images were mainly taken during three ‘Photo Days’ held at the Centre and were an opportunity to interact and develop my relationships with people I might not otherwise have come into contact with; even if at times this contact was brief. They are mainly taken using ambient light inside the building, although the interior fluorescent lighting itself presented a great challenge at times. However to be with and photograph people is the most challenging but the most rewarding experience, as can be seen particularly by the images taken during the portraits ‘Photo Day’. I have also endeavoured to tell their stories factually and without sentiment, but also to treat them sympathetically.
It has also felt a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into their lives, and in turn experience the enjoyment they felt at seeing the work they had helped to produce emerge as a final print. It has also allowed my photographs to bring attention to things that people often overlook.
Evaluation of the project
Looking back over the past six months since the project began in earnest, I have learned a great deal and my reflective thoughts are as follows:
- I chose to continue my work with Catching Lives as I had built up a good working relationship over the 18 months and they were receptive to my carrying out the project with them. It was also an opportunity to develop this link and find out more about a subject which is of interest to me.
- I learnt more about my strengths and weaknesses through a period of extended study and investigations. This helped me to focus on what I needed to do to succeed and in turn to question as to whether or not I was achieving the results I had hoped for. If I had gone off at a tangent was it worthwhile to explore further or did I need to rethink about how the project was progressing?
- It was vital to never place any limitations on time that was needed to be put in and to be prepared to drop everything at a moments notice if the project required me to do so.
- Although the project was my first priority I also felt that I was in return contributing something back for the benefit of both the clients and Catching Lives.
- It was a valuable experience as regards developing further my visual communication skills and to speak photographically to the viewer.
- Although documenting the lives of the homeless has been tacked by many others, I have also endeavoured to produce something that had not been done before at Catching Lives. Initial planning to ascertain if the project was feasible and any financial constraints involved needed to be taken into consideration.
- One important outcome of the project was developing contact with the clients, finding out about their stories and some of the challenges that they are facing. This in turn was helped by my own interpersonal skills and experience.
The main pages in the blog:
These show the developing project, the successes and set backs as follows:
15 October: Initial thoughts
16 October: Further thoughts
6 November: Meeting at Catching Lives
18 December: Catching Lives ‘Photo Day 1’
13 January: Pre ‘Photo Day 2’ visit to Catching Lives
12 February: ‘Photo Day 2’ at Catching Lives
14 February: Follow up at Catching Lives
28 February: Thinking about the project so far
11 March: Update on the project
19 March: ‘Photo Day 3’ & Bishop Trevor
20/21 March: Follow up visits
The images that were chosen:
As the project developed in differing directions following on from my ‘Photo Days’, it seemed a logical progression to put the images together into a photo book which consists of 38 images in total. I have also submitted the five main portraits as separate prints to accompany the book. These were amongst those taken on the first ‘Photo Day’ and appear in the ‘Portraits’ section of my book Living On The Edge. These images are as follows:
The following images are taken from each of the main sections in the photo book:
CLIENTS & STAFF:
OWN WORK by KEVIN:
My photo book entitled ‘Living On The Edge’ can be seen by clicking the title or go direct to my Book Page.
This is a project that still feels almost as if it is in its infancy. One challenge will be to find innovative ideas for future Photo Days which will involve minimal financial outlay, as the days are self funded and to date I have purchased 40 disposable cameras with only two having been returned to be developed.
They also need to be low-key, so that the clients do not feel under any pressure to take part; and they will feel that they have achieved something through the experience. Perhaps macro photography is something that could be looked at. It also needs to be something that can be carried out within the safety of the Centre environment.