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Redeming society project proposal

Posted on by Ben Hodson

As part of my on going investigation into using art to bring about positive change, I have submitted a project proposal and once refined I will seek funding.  Here is some of the core elements below:

 

Background

The idea for the Luton Community Photography project was inspired by the street artist JR, who won the 2011 TED prize. Through the Inside Out Project, JR is focusing “on the power of art and ideas to change perceptions, attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world”......

 

Executive Summary

Objective

To reflect the diverse range of communities across Luton through a photographic project and traveling exhibition. A selection of the final images will be used to participate in the international project: Inside Out. by the artist JR.  It will aim to train people from different communities to become ‘community photographers’ to explore the lives of people around them and people from different backgrounds from themselves through the medium of photography. Their experiences of getting to know another community through the medium of photography will be explored as part of the travelling exhibition. The dialogue between communities and their photographers will be recorded as part of the exhibition and will form the basis of the themes which are explored behind the photographs. In this way the exhibition will have depth and explore contemporary issues which are important to different communities, and therefore go further than merely reflecting the visual diversity of Luton’s communities.  Alongside the workshops at least one or more events will be aimed at taking great portraits of people who cannot afford high quality photos of themselves (eg. homeless, single Mum’s with low incomes etc.)  The project will aim to provide digital/printed copies of the images for the individuals to enjoy the self confidense these images will bring.  This could be done in partnership with stylist’s/make up artists as well?

Aims

  •  To celebrate and reflect the different heritage and cultures of Luton’s communities from multiple       perspectives.
  •  To connect communities’ heritages to people’s current sense of identity and views about living in Luton.
  •  To create a unique training opportunity for people to learn digital photography skills and spot new talent.
  •  To display photography from the project in public spaces (Town centre, LHWG, Airport etc.)
  •  To give a national and international voice to the people of Luton.
  •  To create a mechanism for people to come together to share experiences and stories about the town that they live in and for this dialogue to be rooted in people’s sense of heritage. 
  •  To ensure that a range of communities are able to get involved in the project and that the approaches that are used are inclusive and do not create barriers to involvement.
  •  To give people access to high quality photography and portraits, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. (Single Mum’s, homeless etc.)
  •  To focus on universal issues and themes that can unite people in a common understanding of the world around them rather than focus on issues which create tensions and conflict.

Proposal Overview

The project will be run by Ben Hodson and Ian Rowlands on behalf of the artists collective, A Thin Place.  They will manage the project, any other people involved and oversee the delivery of the training sessions.  The training will be based around both presentational and practical workshops.  This will be  supplemented by a number of photo-walks and group activities. The project will reflect the incredible  cohesion which is already evident in Luton.  The project will demonstrate more then just the diversity of Luton, it will show how this community lives, works and plays together.  Through this project we will seek to dissolve negative perceptions and encourage people to unite under common themes of humanity.  It will tell the long overdue “good story” of this town and its people.

Methodology

Workshops

The project will be based around a number of bespoke workshops – that we would want to cover: a brief history of photography, types of cameras, photographic techniques and processes, brainstorming     creative ideas, taking photographs of other cultures and how to edit, select material and prepare for an exhibition.  A number of photographic styles will be demonstrated with an emphasis on documentary, portrait, contemporary fine art and journalistic styles.  The workshops will take place at either spaces provided by LCST or by the community groups themselves.  This way members will not have to commit to every single session to be part of and enjoy the project.  Those who manage to come to all of them will benefit the most.  Each workshop will have demonstrations, hands on practical tasks and feedback   sessions.  These   feedback discussions will not be overly critical, rather they will give everyone an opportunity to develop their ideas and gain the motivation needed to succeed in their own work.  The emphasis of the workshops will be on encouraging each individual to improve their photography skills in the context of community.  Each person from the community groups will be equipped with the technical know-how, ethical code of conduct and practical and legal limitations. The environment should promote the flow of creative ideas and encourage the collaborative move towards better image creation.  The workshops will be aimed at relevant digital techniques, however, the project will not exclude individuals who wish to use film cameras. After an initial assessment of the current level of photographic understanding, the workshops will be geared to meet the individuals at the stage they currently are.  One of the benefits of having more than one community artist leading the workshops is that people of varying  abilities can be easily aided in the same workshops.  The workshops will be accessible for complete   beginners and will also add value to members who already have photographic understanding and  experience.

Partnerships

The project will be based around different community groups working together to document the chosen aspects of the different communities.  The project will look to build strong relationships and partnerships between the different community groups.  Traditionally pursuits such as photography can be               individualistic and isolating, we strongly believe creativity is better in community.  This project will reflect this ethos and, as far as is possible, aim to ensure every possible part of the process will be done together, either in groups, small teams, partnerships or collaborations.

 

Equipment

If the funding was available, it would be ideal to be able to purchase some photographic equipment for the community members to use.  However, this would possibly become financially restrictive for the    project.  If there is funding available we could recommend the best way to equip the community groups.  This proposal is based on the assumption that this is not the case.  We would therefore ask the individuals to bring their own photographic equipment.  The project would then be geared to teach the individuals to excel with what they already have, even if this is only a basic camera or camera phone.  In addition to this we could make some of our own equipment available for the community members to learn additional skills and have enjoyment with.    We would supply our own laptops to demonstrate, edit and transfer the images to external storage devices.  In order to make sure the data is both protected and easily available to the project managers the project would need to have at least two external hard drives to store all the images collected two external hard drives to store all the images collected.  Having more then one is an important step to ensure the the data is not lost or corrupted.  Having the use of a digital projector would be an essential tool and we would require using one that belongs to the LHWG or having one purchased for the project.  

Editing 

The main digital retouching will be carried out by the project managers, however, it will be with close   involvement, guidance and permission of the creator of the image.  The skills needed to edit the images will be demonstrated in the workshops, however, these skills generally take years of practice to refine them to exhibition standard.  Given the March deadline, we will need to do the majority of this work to ensure the project is successfully completed in time.  The final selection of the images will be done together, however, each participating photographer will be represented in the final exhibition.  We will  provide encouraging feedback and constructive tips to help them create, select and present the best they possibly can. 

Legacy

The legacy left by this project will reap benefits for many years to come.  Hopefully, the friendships, contacts and cooperation between the various individuals and community groups will be one of these lasting legacies. The exhibition itself is also a very real way of helping bring the communities together as well as physically demonstrating and documenting this positive side of life in Luton for as long as it is exhibited.  It will be a fascinating look at the current lives of people in our communities and will be an invaluable historic resource in the future. Another part of the legacy should be that every individual and community group involved will gain skills, confidence and enjoyment from their camera that will enable them to continue to document the lives of their family and life in Luton.  Also the skills gained and perceptions changed will benefit these people for the rest of their lives.  The project should add to the developing arts scene, enrich the wider town and continue to grow Luton’s reputation for initiating engaging cross-cultural programmes.  We would suggest allowing the community members to retain digital copies of all the work they create.  As the project comes to a close we would propose creating a basic catalogue/book which demonstrates the best of the work which isn’t demonstrated.  With self publishing websites becoming so accessible, we could then allow anyone who wants to purchase it to order a copy straight off the website.  One of the ways that the project could maintain a presence and legacy would be to film the project, this could be through ATP Media or someone like Suitecase media etc.

Marketing

  • The project managers will quickly develop logos and branding to give the project a clear identity and help the community groups to associate with it.  One of the artists, Ben Hodson has good experience creating logos and marketing material and would happily do this as part of the initial set up of the project.
  • The project managers have experience with web design and are fully prepared to create, update and facilitate a project website.  The information could just be added to the LHWG sites, however, the   benefits of having a project specific website would be; 
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      • The ability to quickly update the current progress of the community groups and project as a whole.  Ensuring everyone involved, including stakeholders can clearly see progress.
      • It could list all the dates and information for the workshops, photo-walks and exhibitions for the LHWG and project members.
      • A blog could show the stories developing behind the final outcomes, including photos, video snippets, comments and examples of the created work.
      • All content could be created and maintained with clear advice and guidelines from the LHWG.
      • The site could briefly profile all the community groups/individuals involved.
      • This site would link back to any LHWG websites and associated partners.
  • The exhibition opening event and subsequent exhibitions could be advertised through the project   website, through the community groups themselves and any other available outlets through the LHWG marketing strategies.
  • We are fully prepared to develop posters/flyers/digital invites as required to support the project.
  • As previously mentioned a catalogue or small book would be a great way for people to both promote and ultimately remember the project and associated exhibitions.

 

Exhibitions

The initial exhibition will be co-curated by the project managers with close consultation and involvement from all the exhibitors and any relevant LHWG staff however, the final decisions would be made by the project organisers.  The exhibition will be aimed at being as inclusive as possible, with the interpretation being aimed at a broad range of viewers.  The exhibition will be designed to travel easily and will be put together with high quality and lasting materials and fixings.  

As part of the final exhibition at least one large digital photomosaic will be created by the project managers.  This image will include all the photos created through the project and will form either a Luton specific object, the project/town logo or recognisable landmark. This photomosaic will be a fascinating centre piece for both the exhibitors and people who come to view the exhibition.  A high quality version of this could also be uploaded to the website and possibly be used as part of the marketing strategy for the exhibition. Example of a Vauxhall 10 car on following page.  The printing, mounting/framing will be done by professionals with whom we already have already worked in partnerships with, such as The Print Space in Shoreditch, London.  This way we can guarantee quality, good customer service and the best available prices.  The final layout and installation of the exhibition will be primarily carried out by the project managers, community members and LHWG staff and volunteers, with as much involvement by the community groups as is both wise and possible to ensure a quality show is put together.   

All aspects of this project are flexible and we look forward to having an opportunity to talk through any parts of this proposal.  We hope that through this project both the reputation and very fabric of this town will be improved.