Adele came in to speak to the class about GARAS and give a lecture on talking and speaking with vulnerable people. As I was unable to attend due to placement, I felt it was definitely a lecture worth catching up on so I have found out some of the information that was discussed during the lecture.
Adele covered some information on what GARAS does and how people reach the organisation. She explained to the group that many people who do approach GARAS because of their experiences, find it very hard or difficult to trust anyone. This is obviously a very sensitive subject for some people and therefore when speaking to someone who has been through events that they may not want to think about, it is important to do so in a way that doesn’t make you a threat to them and shows that you care about them and aren’t there to exploit or harm them further in any way.
Whilst Adele was speaking she highlighted some of the processes such as the process of establishing trust with these vulnerable people. This doesn’t necessarily have to be just through talking, sometimes it can be through other means as sometimes there are language barriers that get in the way. Developing trust can be done in many ways such as through smiling, being friendly, helping people to feel warm, safe, making them drinks, being polite etc. However in some cases developing trust can take years to establish and that is something that has to come with time and cannot be forced.
Being a photographer provides a different level within trust establishment and Adele pointed out that actually it is incredibly important for people when working with photographers or journalists, documentary filmmakers etc to establish a relationship of trust pior to work starting. This enables each party to sound the other out and understand what each wants from the relationship, what the risks are and whether working relationships, process and expectations are compatible. During her lecture, Adele explained that she has recently turned away a Guardian reporter because it could potentially put GARAS at risk from building strong relationships with other organisations.
As an organisation, GARAS is protective of the people who come to them for help as not many of those that go to GARAS trust many other people. They are quite rightly wary and they have to think about the potential impact their stories could have after potentially becoming public through social media. For example, Adele said that some people have been hurt in Iran because of what people have said here. The topic of trust is a very important issue with sensitive and vulnerable subjects and it’s important to not push the boundaries of limits of what we might want someone to do. We don’t know what they have gone through and it is best to wait until they are ready to open themselves up without feeling at risk.
During her time at UOG, Adele also talked about different ways of telling stories such as by not using portraits or divulging identities. Something that is regarding in my opinion as highly interesting and it allows you to understand a story and tell it to highlight the important of events still happening, but you can preserve the trust you have with a subject and maintain their secrecy so they don’t feel so deeply at risk. I think it could also be a beautiful way of creating a narrative that reminds you, you don’t have to use portraits to tell a story. Instead there is a way to get round this that will still create a wonderful end result. It is all about thinking outside of the box and doing the best you can for your subject.