Community partnership developments

Important to get working on image making as quickly as possible before the next module. Advanced a number of possibilities in the past week.

Newham Partnership for Complementary Education

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, Mansfield House, 30 Avenons Road, Plaistow, London E13 8HT.

Meeting with Martin Pinder to discuss possible photographic work with complementary education groups in east London (follow up to Creating Connections event). Agreed on the following:

1. Make some images of the Ramgarhia Education Centre in Forest gate, exploring the building and how it is used (eg. the three complementary schools that run there at the weekend). Exploration of how the community reconfigures space for learning fits with the social infrastructure focus of my project. Martin to put proposal to Centre leadership.

2. Work with one complementary school to document and explore what they are doing. We talked about a Bangladeshi group, but open to any suggestions (not to overlap with groups participating in 3).

3. Talk with Layal Hussain about how photography might fit with her UEL PhD project ‘Growing up Bi-lingual’ with complementary schools in Newham , which might entail making images over an extended period of time as the project develops.

4. Get down to the proposed Asian Business District in the Albert Docks and see what’s going on. Follow up contacts with local community provided by Martin.

Thames Ward Community Project

Friday, 23rd November 2018, Barking Riverside.

Meeting with community organisers Matt and Jamie and members of the the residents’ group to take a tour around Barking Riverside and neighbouring estates, and learning about the work of the project. Thames Ward Community Project (TWCP) is a lottery funded project with 4 outcome priorities: health, environment, skills and cohesion and the aim to set up a Community Development Trust. Thames Ward is located south of the A13 and bounded by the Thames and River Roding. The ward is London’s largest growth area (and one of the largest in Europe) and includes Barking Riverside, a partnership between the Greater London Authority and London & Quadrant Housing Trust Limited to build 10,800 properties. Barking and Dagenham Council’s growth strategy (aka no resident left behind) indicates a wider ambition of building 60,000 homes, most of which will be in the wider Thames Ward area, giving rise to a new residential area of equivalent in population to Derby.

Photographic opportunities discussed include making images of members of the local community and exploring their relationship with the locality, and forms of social infrastructure (including community projects and services). The longer established estates have well-developed social infrastructure, but this is challenged by the development of the the new housing estates, in which developers have given little attention to social infrastructure. Photographs could be used in both an exploratory manner (in gaining insight into the community, its aspirations and its responses to development) and in advocacy (by TWCP and resident groups). Matt and Jamie are thinking through possibilities and we’ll meet to discuss.

The scale of the development is indicated by the ‘Barcelona on the Thames’ campaign and projection.

(Image from

As the photograph of the site, taken on Friday evening, shows, there’s a long way to go.


Meeting this week with Leslie Crosdale (MSc student) to discuss the development of a social media campaign to promote the responses of residents’ and community groups to the London Plan. Likely to involve photographs of the activities of groups across London.

ESRC Urban Displacement Project

Friday, 23rd November 2018.

Met with Adam Elliott-Cooper (KCL) to discuss photographic work relating to the interviews being conducted with residents on six London estates, exploring experiences, opinions and feelings of displacement, or the threat of displacement. The estates include the Gascoigne in Barking and Carpenters’ Road in Stratford, where I have done some preliminary work. Adam to set up meetings with residents in December.

Photography Workshop, MSc in Urban Development Planning, 2nd November 2018

My workshop formed part of the preparation for fieldwork with community groups starting next week, which provides the basis for the coursework for this practice-based module on the MSc in Urban Development Planning. The orientation of the module is indicated by this statement from the programme notes:

The impact of this [Opportunity Area based, profit-driven] development approach on communities across London has been overwhelmingly negative, leading to a significant loss of social housing, green space and community facilities. Throughout the planning system, little weight has been given to the impact of such development models on the existing and historical socio-economic fabric of London. In fact, such negative effects on local communities have worsened despite on-going rhetorical commitment to address deprivation, exclusion, discrimination and social inequality, creating a paradox at the heart of London planning. This project asks: What is the role of planning in reinforcing this reality and how might planning in London better respond to the diverse needs and aspirations of all Londoners?

My workshop session followed a session on research design, interviews and focus groups by Ignacia Osul, a recent PhD graduate from DPU. She introduced the session by talking about her own study. Most striking, for me, about this work is the use she made of participant photography, using images produced by local people to explore the nature, and politics, of home-making in the community. These images were placed along timelines to get a sense of day to day activities, and priorities were explored with participants. She also explored activities that participants felt could not be photographed (for reasons of safety and privacy, for instance), asking them to draw or otherwise represent these activities. Lots to learn for my own project. The session also reinforced the resonance of the participatory approach taken by the DPU and my own (academic and photographic) work. There is a short film and description of the early stages of Ignacia’s work is here.

My workshop ran for 3 hours, and comprised of an introduction to my photographic work, discussion of the uses of photography in research and practice, and critical engagement with the work of a number of contemporary photographic artists (see list here), interspersed by group activities and feedback. Description of the session as follows:

In this session we will explore the use of photography (and other media) as both an element in the social research process and in the mediation of the outcomes of research. By engaging with examples of the work of photographers engaged with understanding the lives of communities and individuals we will consider how photography might play a part in our own work as practitioners and researchers, and in your forthcoming fieldwork. We will also consider how still images can be used in conjunction with other media (text, maps, data visualisation, video, audio) and how we engage with readers and audiences (through print, exhibitions, online, social media).

I set a preparatory activity, which everyone did.

Take a number of images of the area in which you live (either digital camera or phone images are fine – make sure you have a way of showing and sharing the images with others). Select four that you think give a sense of the place and/or say something about your relationship to, experience of and feelings about the area. Be prepared to discuss the four images with other members of the group at the workshop. Do the task quickly – don’t overthink it.

These images were used in the following activity:

Take turns to present your images to the group. Talk about each image, and consider what you hoped the image would represent and communicate. How do the images work together? Do they need captions or a commentary, can they be combined in different ways to carry a different message, is there anything missing, or misleading, are there any technical issues that you would want to address? Select one image that best expresses what you want to communicate about the place. What makes it the best image? Summarise the discussion and note down issues to raise in a whole group plenary.

The session went very well, and was enthusiastically received (pretty good for a Friday afternoon). The group appeared to be inspired to actively consider how image making can be incorporated into their work. We generated a number of ideas about work that could be done with each of the community partners. I will join one of the groups (Rooms of our Own, a social enterprise advocating for funding of women’s spaces) next week, and will meet with all the groups, and accompany them on fieldwork, over the next month. In addition to the opportunities generated with the community partners, other possible sites for my project work were identified, and I’ll follow these up next week.

Archived Positions and Practice Work in Progress Portfolio

Starting to put together the work in progress portfolio for Sustainable Prospects. In order to use portfoliobox to explore new ways of presenting my work, I’m going to have to decommission my Positions and Practice portfolio. Thought it would be good to archive that here. These photographs were intended to be presented as vertical triptychs. For the portfolio, I put these together as two grids. The ‘Out of Sight’ images are here and the ‘Contested Development’ images are here.

Out of Sight‘, photographs from the Roding Valley Park, grid arrangement in portfoliobox.
Contested Development‘, photographs from Hackney Wick, grid arrangement in portfoliobox.


Initial project schedule

This is the schedule set out in my project proposal. Clearly it is up for revision as we go through the programme. In terms of networking and relationship building, I am, I think, ahead of schedule. I have done some portaiture to develop skills and approach. Images that contribute to the final project will be produced relatively late in the module, which is a worry in terms of completing the assignments. I’ll update, revise and refine as the work progresses.

  • Sept-Dec 2018 (Sustainable Prospects). Relationship building with London Prosperity Board members. Identify areas in which to trial collaborative image making. Make links with citizen scientists and local activists. Exploratory image making. Determine locality for main study. Explore online tools and social media for networking, collaborative working, community building and dissemination.
  • Jan-May 2019 (Informing Contexts). Background investigation of locality for main study (including census based demographic study, mapping and archival work). Investigate the ontological, epistemological and methodological basis of arts-based research approaches. Relate social science theory to theoretical perspectives in photographic arts. Research relevant theoretical foundations of photographic work. Trial Photovoice approach. Final design of study and ethical approval application.
  • June-August 2019 (Strategies & Surfaces). Continuing personal photographic work and collaborative image making. Explore alternative means of presenting images (including books, installations and online galleries). Conduct workshops to prepare community members for Photovoice work. Determine form of personal and collaborative image making, and process of dissemination. Start collection of Photovoice data.
  • Sept-Dec 2019 (FMP1). Analyse and write up community member research. Carry out collaborative photographic work and personal image making. Identify methods of presentation of work and agree methods of dissemination and engagement with participants. Secure exhibition space.
  • Jan-May 2020 (FMP2). Complete all image-making phases. Produce final images and text. Present work, gather feedback and produce account of the project and its outcomes.

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).

Exploring contexts

In addition to meeting with photographers and film-makers over the past two weeks, I’ve been making links with people and organisations to identify contexts for the development of my work, and ultimately to determine the form and focus of my final project. This is just a quick summary in advance of more detailed posts as each strand develops.

Through chairing a discussion at the UCL Engineering Exchange symposium on Community Research Partnerships, I made contact with Just Space, a network of community activist groups concerned with planning and social justice. I met with the organiser and we took a trip around the Barking Riverside development and the Gascoigne Estate in Barking and Dagenham. I hope to build on this to contribute to the urban planning and development masters module running this term, and to work in the field on image making with students carrying out projects with community groups on planning issues (this work might also involve interviewing and sound recording, and possible exhibition of work in the community). I also agreed to help with the training of student photographers for UCL Students’ Union volunteering section, and to go out with them on their initial visits to document the work on student volunteers in the community. At the London Prosperity Board meeting I made contact with the research and community engagement organiser at the Bromley-by-Bow Medical Centre with a view to working with their citizen scientists on collection of data and photography, and maybe to document the work they are doing in the community. I also made contact with the coordinator of community groups in Newham and with the Business in the Community initiative. A serendipitous meeting with a friend and former colleague, now Professor of Future Heritage at UCL, generated another set of possibilities, particularly around the integration of arts-based research approaches with science and social science approaches, and the development of more speculative approaches to research (a post on this later, too). And it generated a challenge: to photograph that which doesn’t yet (but might come to) exist. An interesting side project.

Apprentice 2.0

I was fortunate to be able to arrange to meet and talk to two photographers whose work is very different from my own, giving me the opportunity to learn from their experience and think through how I might extend and enhance my practice. In particular, my work to date has mostly focused on places and structures, in which human activity is evident, but without any people in the photographs. My proposed final major project is going to require portraits and other images featuring people, so I want to learn as much as I can from other photographers. The conversations with Hugh and David have also been helpful in understanding the ‘business’ (or, rather, ‘businesses’) of photography, and to give me insight in both the production, distribution and use of photographic images.

Hugh Kinsella Cunningham is a photo-journalist, whose recent work is predominantly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His photographs of female boxers in the DRC were recently featured in the Guardian.

Hugh Kinsella Cunningham, 2017, Safi Nadege Lukambo, 21, Fight Like a Girl

His current work explores political resistance and the catholic church in DRC. These are colour photographs taken in natural light (early morning, never in the middle of the day, avoiding the complications of lighting rigs). As a photo-journalist, there is an emphasis on presentation of a strong narrative through his images. These stories have to be sold to editors, and the viewer has to be drawn into the images. They also have to be true to Hugh’s strong commitment to the people he is photographing and concern for the conditions in which they live. Whilst the settings he is exploring are familiar to me (having worked on education projects in east and southern Africa), the commercial context of photo-journalism is new to me. His advice on producing and presenting images in this highly competitive world was very valuable and challenging. Images have to be sufficiently strong, with a compelling story, to command the attention of viewers, most of whom don’t care particularly about the issues being addressed. Taking time to understand the context and build trust and familiarity is important. Turning up, being around, being seen and engaging. Taking control of the situation is vital, asking people to try different poses, looking at the camera, looking away from the camera, at different angles, in different settings – working the scene. Take 100 shots per session, don’t be embarrassed to shoot, or to organise the setting. In presenting the work he emphasised the need for quality and consistency in look and feel (do a course in photo retouching, if using film use a lab for processing, scanning and printing). Don’t undersell the work (present in a competitive gallery setting). He gave a number of people to follow up, including work by Nicola Muirhead on Trellick Tower in Notting Hill.

Nicola Muirhead, 2017, In Brutal Presence, Trellick Tower, Sue 33 years resident, 18th Floor.

Hugh’s advice: “Just be respectful and confident and it will fall into place”. I’m certainly up for giving it a go, and think I now have some interesting contexts to explore (see following post about this). To learn to make engaging portraits like these is going to be a real stretch. We’ll stay in contact, and Hugh has offered to look at an edit when I have something worthwhile to show, which will be really valuable. I’m not ever going to be a photo-journalist, but engaging with the hard edge to this work will certainly sharpen and help define my own work.

David Wright is a social documentary photographer who trained at the London College of Printing in the 1970s, but whose career took him away from the visual arts and into education. He continued to make photographs and has recently revisited some of his earlier work (for instance, studies of coal mining in South Wales, and photographs taken around Brick Lane in London). His photographs of life in rural west coast Ireland span 30 years.

He is now working almost full-time on his photography, and has initiated a wide-ranging project on ‘Modern Tribes of Britain‘. He works entirely on film and in monochrome, processing and printing all his own work. David describes his approach as anthropological, seeking to get to know and become part of the communities he is photographing. He often meets people and attends events without taking photographs, and builds trust amongst the community members. There is a loose inferred narrative structure in the sequencing of prints, requiring work on the part of the viewer.

David and I intend to meet each month to share and discuss our work. Whilst our images are very different in style, there is much in common in terms of method (for instance, in engaging participants and aspiring to more collaborative image making) and in the contexts that we are exploring. I have a lot to learn from his work, particularly in relation to the development of a distinctive visual style and the craft of image and print making. We have also been able to share contacts and give each other leads in the development of our respective projects, and might develop some collaborative work. One possible area is to work with student photographers who are documenting the work of student volunteers with community groups across London. His work on urban agriculturalists (one of his modern tribes) also cross-over with my work on the impact of urban regeneration on communities.


This late addition to the Roding Valley Park (RVP) portfolio has a very different quality of light from the other images.

This prompted me to look at other photographs from the same session, and then to try to produce other pieces that could become part of a series. Taking a long walk through the park on a bright autumn day led to the discovery that this light is particular to a section of woods above the pathway of alongside the river, facing west (which has been cleared up since the initial photographs). Walking through the undergrowth, looking for objects and light made making photographs feel like a forensic activity.

With the change in direction of plans for my final project, and shorter, duller days, and inspired by the London Nights exhibition at the Museum of London, these are likely to be the last daytime photographs from RVP.