Project partnerships

The success of my proposed project is dependent on strong partnerships and good relationships with community groups and other stakeholders involved in seeking equity and social justice in urban regeneration programmes. In this post I want to chart progress to date in building these relationships in east London.

Just Space

I met with Richard Lee, the convenor of Just Space, and together we took a tour of estate development and regeneration schemes in Barking and Dagenham. On its website, Just Space is presented as:

a network of local and London-wide metropolitan groups campaigning on planning issues – housing, transport, services, environment, rights of minorities but especially of working class and low-income groups.  Activists and groups support each other in influencing formal plans and policies at scales ranging from metropolitan, through municipal to local.

On the basis of discussion of my project and how I might work with Just Space, Richard offered to put me in contact with resident groups in east London and gave me the opportunity to work with a cohort of MSc students doing fieldwork with community groups as part of a module on Social Development in Practice. I’ll be running a workshop on the use of photography in community work and activism, and working with students and community groups in the production of images to support their fieldwork and subsequent production of reports. In line with the approach taken in my project, I’ll integrate image making with the research process and encourage them to use images in exploring the lives, concerns and aspirations of residents as well as exploring the built environment. Images will be also be made for use in advocacy and presentation of the outcomes of their work with community groups. I am particularly concerned that images are used expressively and analytically, and not just to support text (which is how images have been used to date in this work, as far as I can see). Most of all, this offers an opportunity to develop my methods and approach, and to build relationships with resident and community groups for the final project. I hope to be able to present some of this work in my work in progress portfolio. The work with the students is likely to lead to an exhibition and publication. I want the work with the community and residents groups, and with Just Space, to act as a preliminary stage in a longer term engagement. If the work with the students goes well, there could be an opportunity to develop the work (with the Development Planning Unit at UCL Bartlett) next September.

Creating Connections and Student’s Union UCL Volunteering Service

Creating Connections is a

regular networking event that brings together staff and postgraduate students from University College London and the University of East London with representatives from community organisations, charities, residents’ groups, social enterprises and statutory organisations.

Meetings are held in Stratford (the London Borough of Newham and Student’s Union UCL Volunteering Service are partners, with the University of East London and UCL Public Engagement) and provide an opportunity to form links with community groups in east London and explore the potential for photographic work. From November I will be working with student photographers to document the work that student volunteers are doing with community groups. This provides the opportunity both to develop my own practice and cultivate good working relationships with local community groups.

London Prosperity Board (LPB)

The board meets regularly to review initiatives in and around the Olympic Park. As well as providing a conceptual base for the focus of the project (in the conceptualisation of the dimensions of local prosperity and the foundations of universal basic services), membership of the board has helped me to identify possible sites for project related work (for instance, the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, which is owned and run by the community – there is the opportunity to work with citizen scientists collecting data on environmental threats to well-being in the area). It also provides contacts with local authorities and businesses.

Centre for Excellence in Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE)

I have learned from experience on this module that I cannot afford to have any extended period where I am not able to make images that contribute to my project and portfolio. As I work for two months a year in Australia, I have arranged to do project related work there. This focuses on methods and methodology. I will work with two projects which are using the Photovoice approach. As well as gaining experience in the use of Photovoice, I will also be producing visual images for CEEHE, and working on academic publications on visual methods in social science research. 

The purpose of this post it to take stock. As each strand of the work takes off, I will have to look very carefully at scheduling and continuity. Future posts will take up the individual strands and the relationship between them. The priority over the coming weeks is to produce new work for my work in progress portfolio, and to take up the challenge of experimentation with new forms of image making.

Make This Place Ours: Context and approach

I have lived, worked and served the community in east London for over 40 years. Parts of east London, for instance around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (in Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Hackney,) the Film Quarter (in Barking and Dagenham) and along the Crossrail route (in Redbridge and Havering), are undergoing profound and rapid change. There is a long history of photographic exploration of east London. In this project, I seek to build on, and go beyond, this work by working collaboratively with the agencies and community groups that comprise the London Prosperity Board (LPB), of which I have recently become a member. The approach developed by the LPB identifies five areas of activity that underpin the ability of local communities to flourish and prosper.


London Prosperity Board, 2017: 3

My proposed project:

  • focuses on small areas. The LRB focuses on census output areas, which comprise of around 100 households. This enables in-depth engagement with and understanding of communities and their contexts. The LRB has carried out preliminary research in five east London areas.
  • is multi-professional and inter-disciplinary. The work involves collaboration with a wide range of community groups, professionals and disciplines (including social anthropologists working with local communities on education, health and employment issues, and engineers working with citizen scientists on the collection of data, for instance on local air quality). This enables exploration of how photography relates to, and can be enriched by, other forms of practice and ways of understanding. It also entails consideration of the relationship between arts-based approaches to research and physical and social science research. In carrying out this work, I intend to keep in mind Barthes contention that ‘in order to do interdisciplinary work it is not enough to take a “subject” (a theme) and to arrange two or three sciences around it. Interdisciplinary study consists in creating a new object, which belongs to no one’ (1986:73).
  • is multi-modal (Kress, 2009). Diverse forms of data are being collected, which are being analysed and presented in a variety of different modes (maps, visualisations, photographic images, sound, video and so on). The final form of presentation of my work with involve consideration of the relationship between photographic images and other modes of presentation.
  • entails a multiplicity of forms of photographic image making.

Bromley-by-Bow, 2018

The project will give rise to three distinct forms of photographic images, engaging different audiences and entailing a range of means of dissemination.

  • individual residents will produce images as part of a Photovoice style research programme. Photovoice is an approach to participatory research initially proposed by Wang and Burris (1997), and widely used as an approach in research that explores the life-worlds of individuals and communities. Community members are provided with cameras and instruction to make images of their everyday lives. These images provide both insight for researchers and participants and act as the basis for collaborative meaning making and discussion. It is both educative and empowering as a process, making visible both opportunities and constraints, and providing individuals and communities with the critical resources to shape their futures. Participants will retain ownership of the images produced, to be used strictly with permission in any presentation of the outcomes of this aspect of the project.
  • images produced collaboratively for use by the LRB and local community groups, for which, I anticipate, authorship will be jointly attributed and the images distributed under an appropriate creative commons license (most likely CC BY-NC). My experience in working with policy makers as an academic researcher, is that whilst rigorous research is a pre-requisite, often policy makers are also influenced by narratives, and utilize these narratives in the development and implementation of policy. In this component of the project I want to explore the use of images in the development of these research-related narratives, alongside other images such as info-graphics and visual representations of data.
  • my own images, produced as a response to the work carried out with the LRB and residents. My involvement with and commitment to the east London has both emotional and intellectual dimensions. Inspired by the manner in which Christian Thompson, an Australian Aboriginal artist, has created images in response to artifacts and photographs, I want to produce work that responds to images produced in the course of the project, and my own engagement with the areas and their communities. This will entail experimentation with a range of forms of image making over the coming year, and exploration of the potential and limitations of my own practice to date.

Bromley-by-Bow, 2018

The artistic outcomes of the project will combine these different levels of image making. The project will provide opportunities for public exhibitions (through UCL galleries and events, and links with east London community groups), and publication (in print and online). In exhibition form, the complexity of the inter-relationship between the forms of work produced will demand something akin to the multi-modal form of Edmund Clark’s ‘In Place of Hate‘ (2015-7). In print form, it would be interesting to explore incorporation of other media, for instance in the way that Lewis Bush (2018) has used barcodes to incorporate sound into his book ‘Shadows of the State’. I also hope to explore the benefits of incorporation of an arts based approach to research with physical and social science research.


Barthes, R. (1986). The Rustle of Language (trans. R. Howard). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Bush, L. (2018). Shadows of the State. London: Brave Books.

Kress, G. (2009). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London: Routledge.

Wang, C. & Burris, M. A. (1997). Photovoice: Concept, Methodology, and Use for Participatory Needs Assessment. Health Education & Behavior, 24(3), 369–387.


Edmund Clark, 2015-17, In Place of Hate. (accessed 15.10.18).

Creative Commons, (accessed 15.10.18).

Photovoice.  (accessed 15.10.18).

Christian Thompson, 2018, Ritual Intimacy.   (accessed 15.10.18).

Make This Place Ours: Project aims and objectives

Hackney Wick, 2018

Areas of east London are experiencing dramatic and rapid development, which will potentially transform the local environment and demographic profile. In the past these developments have, at best, brought limited benefit to existing residents, and, at worst, driven long-established communities out of the area.

This project aims to use photographic image-making, alongside other media, to understand the social, cultural, political and economic dynamics of change in these areas, and help residents to be pro-active in achieving positive outcomes for the local community.

Hackney Wick, 2018

The objectives are to:

  • use photographic images and image-making to understand the life-worlds and aspirations of residents and how their circumstances relate to and can be improved by proposed developments in their locality, and to help them influence these developments.
  • work collaboratively with residents, researchers, community groups, local government and businesses to develop photographic and related resources to use in initiatives designed to develop local prosperity.
  • increase the complexity and scope of my own practice as a photographic artist in addressing challenging interdisciplinary and multi-professional issues, and to take this work to a wider audience.
  • enhance understanding of how photography, in an arts-based research approach, can integrate with and contribute to physical and social science research addressing complex and enduring social concerns.

Download Full Research Project Proposal (PHO701).

Week 4: Begin at the Beginning

My engagement with photography began in front of the camera, as a child model, aged 4 (four guineas a session, paid to my mother).

AB as child model

Photographs by Ray Harwood (personal collection)

My godfather, Ray Harwood (1926-2017), took a course in photography at Regents Street Poly when he was discharged from the RAF after the second world war. Unable to afford film, he took work as a photographic assistant for Conde Nast, becoming assistant to Cecil Beaton (including the 1953 Coronation photographs, that’s him on the right below, HRM on the left) and then a staff photographer for Vogue, before establishing his own studio.

ray and beaton.jpg

Queen Elizabeth II; Cecil Beaton and two assistants (John Drysdale; Ray Harwood)
by Patrick Matthews, 1953.
On display at Museum Kampa, Prague, Czech Republic.

The smell of film, the buzz of the strobe units, the weight and sound of a Pentax Spotmatic and a Hasselblad, have formed a lifelong visceral bond with photography. And photography exemplified for me the opportunities for working-class social mobility in post-war Britain, though I took a different path. I learned to process and print at the age of ten, and have taken photographs in a somewhat disorganised and incoherent way since. I don’t have my earliest images to hand, but here are three from the late 80s, processed and printed in our bathroom in Hackney. Like all my photography until about 18 months ago (shortly before Ray died), it is personal and focused on immediate family. I don’t think the images have aesthetic or artistic value, more personal and evocative of a period in our lives. I don’t think they would withstand any detailed analysis as images.




The book in the third image (my son’s favourite picture) is an Open University collection, and it is open at Pierre Bourdieu’s paper on the three forms of capital (which I was reading at the time), ultimately more influential in shaping my trajectory than photography. Just short of sixty years on from my initial encounter, the time came to become reacquainted with photography, delve deeper and weave together the various strands of my life and interests, which is challenging, exciting, enthralling and more. And now I have my own period Spotmatic and Hasselblad, but no studio in Knightsbridge …

Week 3: Reflection

Getting into social media (in particular, Instagram) has been a challenge this week (see post for details). The upshot is, I think, greater clarity about how I might use social media in advancing and promoting my own work, and how it might specifically play a part in elements of my project (for instance, in maintaining momentum amongst participants, and disseminating both the process and outcomes of each component of the work). In relation to my own work, it has made me think more carefully about development of a website where I can bring together the different strands of my work (the artistic, the academic and the community). Whilst Instagram can establish contact with individuals, groups and organisations (the calling card), I need to be able to direct attention to a wider body of more integrated work.

The discussion provided good advice on the use of Instagram, and alerted me to some issues around the holding of personal data (as I will be interviewing people as part of the project) which I need to sort out in relation to GDPR. I was disappointed not to be able to take part in the viral image activity – too much to do whilst travelling between UK, Guyana and USA. But I want to pick up ideas from this activity later in the project development process.

Limited opportunity to shoot work relevant to my project as I’m away from home, but I have been to some great exhibitions in New York (will post about these) and picked up some books at Aperture (and will post about these, too). Practical work on my project has been more concerned, over the past three weeks, with making contacts and developing partnerships. And I’m continuing to stretch myself into portraiture, and thinking about ways of exploring visually the lifeworlds of the residents in relation to the way in which physical space around them is being transformed. As discussed in the webinar, any portraits included in the final project will also have to include references to context, in order for them to make sense with respect to the project and the impact of regeneration on individuals and communities. The juxtaposition of images, as in Sissel Thastum’s work (guest lecture this week), warrants careful consideration in achievement of this contextualisation, and develops my experimentation with triptych form in the previous module. The idea of placing the residents is their ‘urban landscape’, in a way that can give a sense of their intimate engagement and interaction with aspects of this environment (including interior and external space) is challenging. As Sissel discussed, being clear about the interpretative dimension of the work produced is important, both with respect to the images produced and the relationship between the photographer and the ‘subject’.

Week 3: Instagram

Some great advice on, insight into and debate about Instagram provided by others in the discussion group. Lots to get to grips with. When it comes to Instagram, and social media more generally, I’m definitely in the remedial group. I set up an account before the module and acquired one follower (a former colleague) immediately, followed soon after by my son. The activity asks us to develop a strategy. I have posted a sequence of images with a consistent style, and sought appropriate hashtags (though it has been tricky finding ones that attract the right kind and level of interest, as others have noted). I’m responding to any comments made, and increasing the number of people and organisations I follow, thinking about what this implies about my own work. Gaining 20 followers in a day indicated that I should meet the (thankfully low) target of 30 set for the activity. I shifted the content incrementally to bring it closer to my current work.

What Instagram can offer me at this point in time, as a photographer, is limited, I think, but I can see that I could use it very productively (in a clearly directed and designed manner) when I am more advanced in my final project. This would entail, I think, a number of accounts, each focused on a particular locality, plus an account of my own for the work that I produce in relation to these contexts (which would include insights into process and outcomes as well as images). As a means of dissemination (and exchange within a particular group, for instance a residents’ group) it’s a really good resource. Whether or not Instagram facilitates wider interaction and dialogue, as others have observed, is a moot point. The potential for Instagram to stimulate some form of financial return or competitive edge is less of an interest for me, but clearly important for commercial photographers seeking to maximise exposure and access new markets. And it appears that Instagram is now the first port of call for collectors, galleries, publishers, agents, editors and others in the industry, thus making a well-managed Instagram presence/identity essential for many photographers. For those seeking no more than a wider audience for their work, I’m less clear, at the moment, about whether Instagram provides sufficient return for the work required. The crux appears to be developing a strategy (whatever the means adopted, online or IRL) to reach and engage the right audience.

In 3 days I’ve gone from 2 to 66 followers, with a relative deluge of likes. The key appears to be consistent and regular posting, and following and liking other people’s work to show that you are active. And, I hope, posting good and engaging images. To reach the right audience for your purposes, I think you need to accept that there will be a high degree of redundancy. From this point I think it’s a matter of cultivating that audience through well targeted and considered liking and commenting. I’ll continue to post and cultivate, but maybe less frequently, and more experimentally. One firm and unambiguous piece of advice from the photo-journalist I spent time with in the preliminary activity was ‘Delete everything you did as a student’.

I think I can see how I can productively use Instagram in my work. Engaging in an extended dialogue through Instagram is, I think, too much to expect. If Instagram is a calling card, then we have to follow up to make the appointment to engage more fully through other means. Maybe its more like a card in a (global) newsagent’s window.

One key concern for me is the need to be really clear about our aspirations and organise our Instagram use and strategies (and expectations) accordingly. I don’t aspire to be a ‘social influencer’ (now the top career aspiration for young people, apparently – looks like we are going to be reliant on AI for our doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers …), nor to make a million a year as an Instagram star (seriously, who needs that, sitting at laptop all day, generating content …), nor even to max out my likes. So that’s not necessarily where I need to go to develop my Instagram strategy. Better to identify people with whom I share aspirations who have successfully advanced these through Instagram and learn from them. And maybe develop some strategies of my own.

Week 2: Reflection

The webinars with Susan Bright and Victoria Forrest provided real insight into the process of curation and publication. In terms of exhibiting, I’m now thinking more carefully about the relationship between the design of an exhibition and the space available. This is particularly important for multimodal exhibitions, which need to balance providing an collective experience and drawing individual attention and provoking reflection. The Elina Brotherus exhibition did this very successfully. Likewise, book design warrants careful consideration (and specialist assistance or advice). I’m thinking about forms of dissemination and public engagement more carefully, and in an integrated manner, in the development of my project. I’ll revisit both these presentations.

Whilst not intending to develop a business from my photographic work, thinking of the development of my project ‘as a business’ has been very helpful in clarifying who the work is for and what it is intended to achieve. As the work develops I do need to consider financial aspects (and maybe seeking funding), and also legal aspects. In the research proposal, I wrote about the use of the Creative Commons. I need to return to and clarify this in relation to the three levels of work that will be produced.

The development of my project has been mainly in terms of creation of networks, building relationships and creating contexts. This has been very productive, with work arranged with the UCL Student Union volunteering unit (working with volunteer photographers to document the work of volunteers with local community groups), a workshop for the Development Planning Unit at the Bartlett, followed by working with community groups and MSc students on planning and regeneration initiatives, and work for the Centre for Excellence in Equity and Higher Education in Australia (making a series of still photographs relating to projects to supplement short films already made, developing a critical commentary on photovoice style research drawing on projects on domestic violence and on youth offenders in rural areas, and publications on equity in higher education, space and time involving the use of visual arts based research methods and approaches). If all goes to plan, I should be able to line this up with the requirements of each module and the development of the final project. If all goes to plan …

Being out of the country has made it difficult to create images directly relating to the project. I have, though, attempted to develop my portraiture work in preparation for the project. Some preliminary images of family in Guyana below (these require some work – just a quick selection to give a sense of current photographic work). This has given rise to a possible alternative project – I’ll write about this in another post. I have also been working through Roswell Angier’s (2007) book on portrait photography, and will develop the outcomes of the projects from that when I am back in London at the end of the month.

Angier, R. (2007), Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography, Lausanne: AVA Publishing.

Stefan Draschan Museum Project

OK, these images are not so good, but … I was at an exhibition at the Guggenheim on Monday (‘One Hand Clapping’, an exhibition of contemporary art from China; a post on this in my CRJ to follow, when I can catch up) and I thought I’d take a look at the permanent collection. Part way through, I remembered this discussion topic, and took two photos in about 5 minutes – see below. On the way out, I stopped by the gallery door and took a few minutes to look closely at the people going in, particularly the colours they were wearing. I reckon I could match the appearance and colours worn by several people to particular works in the gallery, and could wait for them to get to the relevant work to get the shot. On the basis of this, I think that, given a good deal of patience, a feel for ‘camera syntax’ and quick reactions, you could build up a decent body of work in the style of Draschan. And no need to set up shots (as he stands accused by some). Like Vincent, I certainly don’t think I have the patience, and also don’t feel comfortable hanging around galleries doing this kind of work, but an interesting exercise to try, if only for a short session.

Week 2: Let’s talk business

Like a number of others in the group, it hadn’t been my intention to develop a business from my photographic work, but the module is very constructively provoking me to think carefully about how my work is positioned in the broader field of photographic practice, who the work is for and how it reaches an audience. Given the early stage of my thinking on this, I’ve kept it brief (but aspirational), and related it to the current direction of my final project.


To use photographic image-making, alongside other media, to understand the social, cultural, political and economic dynamics of urban regeneration, and work collaboratively with residents in achieving positive and equitable outcomes for the local community.


  • Images produced by residents as part of participatory research studies, designed to explore the diversity of life-worlds, circumstances and aspirations of communities.
  • Images produced in collaboration with local stakeholders (residents, activists, researchers, community groups, local government and businesses) to develop photographic and related resources to use in initiatives designed to develop local prosperity and for use in local advocacy.
  • Images produced from my own artistic, emotional and intellectual response to resident and collaborative images and my engagement with the areas and their communities.
  • Workshops for residents and other stakeholders, exhibitions, online and print resources and publications relating to the images produced and the process of image-making.
  • Publications offering critical commentary on visual arts methods in interdisciplinary research and development.


  • Resident, community and local activist groups.
  • Organisations and networks concerned with development, public space, housing and social justice.
  • Local authorities and constituent departments.
  • Academics, researchers and students concerned with urban planning, community development and equity.
  • Arts organisations and galleries wanting to enhance local public engagement.
  • Local college and university departments (including photography, arts, planning, development, architecture, urban anthropology, social science).

Personal learning in plain view

I struggled initially with the idea of producing a personal reflective journal that is both a public document and a component in the assessment for an award bearing course. This struggle was both intellectual (I had difficulty in getting my head around it) and emotional (I was not sure about how I felt about it). Whilst I haven’t totally resolved these struggles, I have, I think, reached a practical and personal resolution (how I am going to deal with it). And, of course, that resolution might only be momentary, and subject to revision as I progress through. Most importantly, though, I have, I think, reached a point where I can turn initial trepidation into a positive commitment. Learning in plain view, through this kind of public private writing, is a good thing.

In reaching a resolution I wanted to avoid the obvious performative solution. Treat successful completion of the degree as the primary function, and manicure the postings to project the image of a successful student. This is a tried and tested approach to any form of reflective journal (I am relatively sure that Erica McWilliam has written something about this in relation to the journals produced by beginning teachers, which I need to check). It is high risk, though, as, to be successful, it requires the writer to have a clear sense of the principles of assessment of the programme (what are the assessors looking for). So, to a degree, you have to be an adept to be able to produce a text that passes as that of a successful student. And there are complexities as the tacit criteria might require failure (and recovery) as part of the process. That is that, the writer may have to walk the tightrope of manufacturing a sufficient vulnerability on the path to ultimate success. There may also be a requirement for a degree of perceived authenticity, or revelation of a sufficient sense of self to authenticate the postings (bearing a watermark). A thought about blockchain technology has just come to mind, where who you are is encoded and preserved for future authentication (though that is an excessively static conception of self). I’m not going to pursue that here.

This is an excessively cynical approach to my mind, and there is the strong odour of bad faith. However, it does not have to be a total strategy, and in making any statement in this kind of environment there will always be a degree of self-checking (what are the consequences of publishing this?). So performativity as a total strategy stinks, but a degree of performativity (a manicured projection of self) is inevitable. The act of writing (and the reflection that that involves) means that we can never just ‘get it all out there’. Writing requires selection and expression and slows things down, though tweeting clearly allows people to just ‘blurt it out’ (to millions of others in some cases). This is not the place to wrestle with Derrida (there’s a post coming on that in due course).

To bring this post to a hasty conclusion, I think my approach is to treat this as a genuinely educational opportunity. To formulate and convey emerging thoughts and practices in a new (for me) domain of endeavour produces something to think about that moves practice forward in, potentially, dialogue and engagement with fellow travellers. Of course, to learn is the primary objective for me in doing this course, and the personal stakes are relatively low in that there are few professional consequences to success or failure (and relatively limited personal consequences, mostly related to self-esteem). To a degree, posting to the blog enables me to formalise my thinking, to put down markers and to remember (and there will be a post on memory ‘prosthetics’; aids to ageing cognitive functioning). It is a place to build something in public view. What’s the advantage over doing this in private? That, maybe, is to do with the pressure that the public exposure brings to take some care in expressing thoughts (but not to the extent necessary for a published paper or book). And it provides a framework for organisation of thoughts and experiences around a particular project (growing as a photographer, and understanding the field). And memory is important, too (‘but you said …’). How do I feel about the seeping out of what is written here to other domains of practice? That’s uncertain. This is for a pedagogic purpose, and it is about exploration not exposition. It’s a supplement to, not replacement of, identity and practice in other areas of life.