“It would be an understatement to say they liked them … absolutely loved them would be closer. They were clearly delighted and very VERY proud of their children. The teachers loved the way they tell a complicated story so eloquently. One never gets those vocational ‘I’ve been part of something worthwhile’ buzz moments as often as one might wish, but I definitely have one now” (JD, Roma Source)
Earlier this year I was offered a project which ticked loads of boxes in terms of the direction my work has been taking. This was to lead a series of photography workshops with Roma children attending a school in Leeds, with the final output to be multimedia which said something about the children’s new lives in Yorkshire.
I’ve wanted to do more participatory work for a while and attended a Photovoice training course in preparation for this 18 months ago, but although I’ve introduced some of its concepts into my independent work I haven’t – until now – found the right partners to support a wider project.
This project was funded by Roma Source, with support from the EMTAS team at Leeds City Council, and of course the staff and young people at Harehills Primary School. I was able to rope in my friend Gemma Thorpe – a photographer with much more teaching experience than me – to help run the workshops, and then I took all the materials we generated away and used them to make photofilms. (More about the project here)
Now we have finally had feedback on the finished product from the children and their parents, and have been given permission to share the films, which will be used as an educational tool by some of the people in Yorkshire and beyond who work with Roma. Please check them out….
A selection of my photographs from Cedar Mount, a high school near my home, has been used to illustrate a study into the experiences of migrant Roma children in UK schools, written by Equality and published by the Roma Education Fund. Cedar Mount has about 100 Romanian Roma children – roughly one in eight pupils – as well as smaller numbers of Roma children from other Eastern European countries. I wrote about the school’s successes – and the challenges it faces – for Times Educational Supplement Magazine earlier this year. One of the things Manchester’s education authority has started doing – with great foresight in my opinion – is employing classroom assistants from the Romanian Roma community, almost all young adults who speak English but have not themselves benefitted from a formal education. There are several reasons for this – it shows the community that they are valued in this city; it raises aspirations by proving to Roma children that they can have the same ambitions and expectations as the rest of us in the UK, and it builds the confidence of this group of adults, who will hopefully go on to become links between different sections of the population. Ramona, who I have been focusing on for my major project, and who appears in the image above, is one of these people and the only woman. The report is available at Equality’s website.
I have a piece in today’s Guardian Education section about the Young Carers Revolution. Their film will be launched on June 11th but the fantastic trailer can be seen on the Guardian website. It also contains a few of my stills, and the full film should contain more.
My young carers audio slideshow will be going out to schools along with the film on the DVD. It’s a relief that this won’t be wasted because I haven’t managed to place it anywhere in the media, either paid for or free. That is not for lack of trying and despite many people telling me they liked it.
This gets me seriously wondering about all this energy me and other photographers/journalists are currently investing in multimedia. I love taking audio and in many ways find it a more effective way of interviewing than writing everything down in shorthand, as I was trained to do. I love working with people’s voices and pairing them with images to construct narratives, which I think of like solving a huge audio jigsaw puzzle.
BUT, what’s the point if no one wants it? A three-minute audio slideshow takes me up to three days to produce….and for nothing. I can’t even give them away with my written stories. So who are we making them for – other photographers?