Becky Warnock, Projects Manager for PhotoVoice, reflects on her views on PhotoVoice’s projects over the course of 2015.
I’m writing this post in a hotel in Jakarta, having completed our second trip working with Indonesian women migrant workers, in partnership with MAMPU. It’s been an incredible two weeks, full of contrasting experiences and surprises, ranging from the stunning and welcoming remote island of Lembata, the more developed and dynamic Lombok, to the sheer size and density of cosmopolitan Jakarta.
It would be so simple to make the assumption that all migrant workers in Indonesia are united by a common aspiration, or that their desires for employment are the same. But they aren’t; and each group is so different in their identities. You can read more about this in our project update post here.
It has reinforced to me that the strength of PhotoVoice’s methodology in its capacity to be flexible, to respond to the group, meeting each individual where they are at, and allowing that the outcome be defined by them.
It was this same creativity and artistic value that strengthened our work with Sense UK this year too; despite being such a short pilot project, the images from the participants we worked with are beautiful, and unusual, standing out even from the log of images in the PhotoVoice database.
The photos are special in that they each capture the unique perspectives of the participants and their experiences of deafblindness. We are hopeful that 2016 might bring further activities with Sense, and look forward to being challenged to creatively develop new ideas for sensory photography and how this might provide an outlet and expression for participants’ identities.
Earlier in the year, we provided Christian Aid with the evaluation report for our partnership My Pharm, a monitoring and evaluation project supporting the development of subsistence farmers in rural Ghana. The report contained a section titled Unintended Outcomes, which detailed stories of moments where our trained Community Monitors were able to take complete agency over their new roles and photographic skills; one using them to create warning posters about the dangers of swimming in certain areas, the other using his photos of a badly burnt young boy to ensure that he was able to receive life saving healthcare.
We could never have anticipated the role that images might have played in these situations, but we can certainly celebrate the initiative and inspiration that these participants displayed.
We are continuing work with Christian Aid through a new project in Ethiopia, building skills with the local partners to support resilience around climate change. This year we will support the community to further embed their role as community monitors and better manage the resources provided as part of the climate intervention; ensuring that they have the capacity and training to do so.
Another major project in 2015 was our work in the UK with young people who are affected by or at risk of sexual exploitation, as part of our project Having Our Say3. We were struck by the need for, and importance of, a caring, nurturing environment in which the young people feel safe. So many of the young people we have met and worked with have reflected on the importance of workers taking the time to be with them, get to know them as people, as opposed to processing their situations on a conveyor belt system.
With one of our partners on this project, NSPCC Croydon, it was clear that the staff care deeply about their clients and have managed to find the time to create meaningful relationships with each young person. For our partners at The Men’s Room in Manchester, despite their small team, there is the sense that staff don’t just try to solve a young persons’ situation of unemployment by focusing on just getting them any job, instead working with them to think about their aspirations, their hopes, and what might be holding them back from these. These stories and experiences make us hopeful for our future work on the project, but more importantly, for the futures of the young people themselves and what these experiences might empower them to achieve.
This year will see PhotoVoice build further on these experiences. We are excited to complete our next phase of workshop delivery for Having Our Say 3, share our learnings and report with MAMPU, and also host a panel event on How to Encourage Diversity in Photography at London Art Fair on the 20th January. These different events will target a variety of changes at various levels, both for individuals, organisations and sectors, but also continue to expand our development as a charity and methodology too.
In the meantime, we would like to thank everyone who has supported us up till now, and wish you a very happy 2016.