Week 1: Looking back

My project took a major change in direction towards the end of the previous module. I started to take photographs around Hackney Wick, focusing on the relationship between so called re-generation of the area and the lives and prospects of local people.

Other photographic work in the area has represented the lives of local people, but hasn’t actively engaged in attempts to ensure that residents have influence on and get the full benefit from the changes taking place. My project involves three inter-related forms of image-making: (i) images made by local residents which act as the basis of understanding peoples lives and aspirations and the impact of the changes taking place; (ii) collaborative image making with community and activist groups that can be used in advocacy by local people; (iii) my own artistic response to the changes taking place in east London, as a photographer, educator and resident (of over 40 years).

Most of the time between the modules has been spent making contact with resident and activist groups developing relationships and opportunities for image making (and other forms of exploration and expression, for instance sound recording and short film-making). These include joining the London Prosperity Board (active around the Olympic Park area) and developing photographic work with members (for instance, citizen scientists working from the community owned Bromley-by-Bow Medical Centre), working with JustSpace (a network of resident and activist groups concerned with urban planning and social justice) and members (for instance the Carpenters Road Estate Residents Group) and supporting student photographers documenting the work of volunteers with community groups and charities. As well as advancing my own work, I’ll be running workshops (on a masters in urban planning, for instance, as well as for community groups) and working collaboratively with others. I’ve also been asked to do similar work on projects in Australia, and to write about visual and arts based methods in social research.

As well as managing a complex project, the major photographic challenge for me is to become confident in making images of people. I did get to spend some time with other, much more experienced, photographers, doing very different work from my own (photo-journalist Hugh Kinsella-Cunningham and social documentary photographer David Wright) and I spent a week at the OpenCity Documentary Film Festival (directed by film-maker and anthropologist, Michael Stewart). I’ve written about this in my CRJ.

In terms of images, I have made one final set of images at the Roding Valley Park. Visited a lot of exhibitions, particularly those that are multi-modal and experiential. Become concerned about the privatisation of land in east London (a present day Fay Godwin in the making). And said farewell to my principal workplace for the past 30 years and packed up my office on the 7th floor (yesterday).

I’m excited, but more than a little daunted, about working on the project over the coming 18 months, and have tried to tie in the development of this work with the focus of each of the modules.