Sunday 23rd October was Open Day at the Crossness Pumping Station. The ‘Thames Tides’ installation, created by Susi Arnott and I, screened throughout the day alongside the mighty beam engines. You can still catch the show this Friday 28th Oct. Details and photos below.
Crossness Pumping Station. Friday 28th Oct. 2016
Where? Crossness Pumping Station
The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W. Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London SE2 9AQ
When? Friday 28th Oct. Public guided tour from 10am-1pm. Booking is required for this – through Eventbrite on the Crossness website. Cost is £12 and includes tea and biscuits.
Parking available outside site on Bazalgette Way. Walkers/cyclists gain access via the pedestrian access pathway – at end of Bazalgette Way on left BEFORE thames water security gate.
With thanks to all the photographers of the Displaces project
On previous ‘participatory photography’ projects, we’d give people good compact cameras, and some practical and conceptual training. Then they’d return to their families, communities or neighbourhoods, and take pictures.
The results could be revelatory; expressive as well as documentary, giving insights into lives and identities which might not be apparent to a professional photojournalist.
But working in the Calais ‘Jungle’ challenged this process.
I’ve been working in the camp with Dr Marie Godin, from the University of Oxford’s International Migration Institute, on the ‘Displaces’ photo project. We wanted to take a critical look at the use of participatory photography there.
We met people living in temporary conditions, in a place which they do NOT own – culturally, legally, socially or visually. The camp represents everything they want to escape from. Handing cameras to refugees and demanding they document their lives there, risked producing images reinforcing their sense of abjection.
This is compounded by not being able to show most people’s faces.
Those who want to come to the UK need to stay invisible.
They must not make any trace of their existence in Calais and risk compromising their asylum claim, if and when they get here.
So they often choose to anonymise themselves.
But anonymity is also part of their oppression, and is continually imposed. Those who want to keep them out of the UK de-humanise them as a ‘swarm’. Those who want to help get them into the UK also anonymise them, albeit with best intention.
Both are dispiriting and undermining. Rubbing out someone’s face does not feel good. Asking them to do it themselves is even worse. They have to turn themselves into non-people. Collude in their own oppression. A photo project makes it all very literal and obvious.
Pixellated pictures appear to criminalise refugees and the right to seek asylum.
Many participants were even more aware than us, of this problem of identity and representation. They responded in various ways, perhaps the most interesting being aspiration.
In particular, people took pictures of themselves not as refugees but as individual citizens. Participants portrayed themselves as human beings (teachers, engineers, mothers and fathers, cousins) with aspirations to have a better life.
An engineer from Darfur keeps his suit hanging in his shelter.
Some photographed themselves standing outside bourgeois houses. One group posed in front of Rodin’s ‘The Burghers of Calais’ (a sculpture about self-sacrifice in the face of arbitrary power).
These photos were often taken not for the project, but for their families back home, with no attempt to hide themselves. I find these bland touristic photos more interesting and telling than the images taken in the camp.
But how can they be shared more widely?
I’ve anonymised this set of ‘aspirational’ images using a different cultural, visual code; by ‘ghosting’ whole bodies, not just pixillating faces. I hope the results question the way settled citizens ignore or look right through refugees – without criminalising or victimising them.
Last March this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives, came to London. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from UCLA. This is the ninth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
Each participant produced a sequence of ten images which will be appearing on the project website: http://throughpositiveeyes.org/ Meanwhile, here’s a sample to be going on with.
Itinerant brick kiln workers use WhatsApp to stay in touch.
Donkey owner-drivers working in the brick kilns of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are paid every Friday, but receive a lump sum payment at the end of the brick-making season. This allows them to buy Indian-made smartphones costing about 5,000 Rupees each.
Most donkey owners are itinerant and may be away from their home villages for many months at a time. The phones allow them to stay in touch, both with family members, and friends working in other kilns. They’re also a status symbol for the young. Using WhatsApp is cheap and may be a spur to literacy for a largely unschooled workforce.
Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Virat (13) who likes to be known as ‘Brad’ with his smartphone. He good-naturedly photographs every move the UK photographer makes.
Donkeys have a blind spot immediately in front of them, but can see right round to their hind legs – though not behind their head.
Simply mounting a wide angle camera on a donkey’s head won’t tell us how a donkey really ‘sees’ the world. But it can tell us something about its working life. Its movements, its height, the rhythm of its work, how it directs its attention and perhaps how it relates to people and other donkeys.
This donkey shot 2,700 photographs over a 45 minute period as it went about its repetitive work at a brick kiln in Gujarat, India. This selection of its work will tell you as much about what I think makes an interesting photograph as it does about donkey consciousness. But that would apply if I had shot them myself.
I’ve just returned from helping to run the Thai chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives. This is the seventh city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.