My first exhibition as a photojournalist launched at Midlands Arts Centre (mac) in Birmingham on Wednesday 24 February. The photographs are a culmination of numerous workshops that took place between November 2015 and February 2016 between 4 community art groups in Birmingham in Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath, Hall Green and Kings Heath.
I was commissioned by mac and Art Works Hall Green to document the four projects. It was an excellent way for me to warm myself back into the arts and communities of Birmingham having just moved back to the city in September 2015. Visual artists, story tellers, dancers, actors, crafters and film makers worked with community groups since developing bespoke projects under the theme of Connecting Spaces.
My work is introduced at the exhibition with the following comments:
Connecting Spaces has been a wonderful experience during my journey as an artist. I feel lucky to have managed a range of arts projects both locally and globally since 2001, and it has been a privilege to return to my home city in autumn 2015 having been away for 7 years, getting to know the local community on my doorstep; this time as a practitioner. My travels around the world brought to surface my biggest passion and skill; connecting with people from all walks of life, and capturing their stories. To be able to do this with my local community as a photojournalist on this project has been an honour.
I loved documenting the different skills, personalities and emotions in the four groups in different parts of Birmingham. But what I enjoyed and value the most is the interactions I had with so many beautiful people, and the energy and enthusiasm for life that we shared with honesty and kindness. Photography is more than just a still image capturing a moment in time, at least in my practice. It is more than getting the perfect shot with the best light. Photography is telling a story, beyond the life of that moment, and so many stories can be told from one image interpreted by different pairs of eyes. It’s about connecting with people and places, firstly on a personal level, feeding one’s own curiosity about the world and the different lenses we can choose to see it through.
Projects like this are invaluable to the community and the world we live in that bring everyday people together. As producers and cultural organisations we are forever under pressure to demonstrate the value and impact of arts projects to funders, both public and private. The truth is, it is impossible to quantify the critical importance of projects like Connecting Spaces that change lives, strengthen communities, improve health, educate, inspire, and allow us to be happy human beings.
I loved getting to know the artists and community groups during this project, seeing the passion and warmth from their hearts visible in their eyes and smiles. We live in difficult times, at least that is what we are told in our newspapers and on social media. We are more lonely and insecure than ever before. But its amazing what can happen when you get people of all ages and backgrounds out of their homes working together on creative projects. We have to share and celebrate the positive in our communities too, so I have to thank Art Works and mac for giving me the opportunity to do this in Birmingham.
This collaboration brings together Community Vibe, Birmingham Craftivists, Arts All Over The Place, New Life Baptist Church Kings Heath, Tree-mendous Tales, Hall Green Library, Balsall Heath CATS, Ilvars Veinbergs, and Ashiana Community Project.
The Connecting Spaces exhibition will be on show at mac 24th February – 10th April.
Funded by Birmingham City Council’s Cultural Commissing Team as part of the Arts Champion and Arts Forum programmes.