I have been researching participatory projects and ways in which it is possible to work with and incorporate working with subjects. One such project I have come across that focuses on participatory photography was based within a school.
The images that were made for the series, were created by children of a primary school in London for a show in 1989, aiming to showcase how much young people can achieve when their creativity is supported. The photographer Karina Walton worked with an all-girl group from the school and helped them to create some posters for the boys within the school, highlighting the problems that the girls were having with unfair treatment from some of the boys in the school. The girls proposal to Walton was to produce some work in response to verbal and physical harassment they experience in school. Walton noted that it tended to be related to sexism and racism, and so in the workshops that followed, she allowed the girls to have free reign to choose their subject matter, poses, lettering and design, giving them some control back against the boys.
I thought the project was very interesting and unique in its nature as it has a strict purpose and final aim. Getting the girls involved whilst getting them to understand how to show how they feel and help them convey their point of view thought their art, was a really interesting method that worked well for them and gave a fantastic response as a result. Especially considering the time period in which this was carried out in, I feel it is especially relevant to note just how forward this approach would have been in this time. Equality was not what it is now and this type of harassment from a young age would have been something very prevalent in a lot of places. I thought it interesting that it was tackled head on with a new generation through the medium of photography, especially getting them to collaborate at such a young age.
These remarkable images created by children of a primary school in London show how much young people can achieve when their creativity is supported. Photographer Karina Walton worked with an all-girl group to create these instructional posters for the school – instructional for boys.
The resulting images owe their power to the participatory process which Walton facilitated.
There are three factors in particular that contributed to their success, I feel, and they are very important when working on a project of this type of nature.
- The participants of the project were able to influence all elements of the photographic process, including the medium and the locations. They could also influence the layout and the design aspects of the images and the posters. For example, I noticed the posters were all in black and white, despite colour being an available format. When reading more into the project I discovered this had been a design choice by the participants because they decided that black and white was more ‘serious’ where as colour was more for ‘happy photography’ and so thus, they shot in black and white film.
- The participants were able to work in a safe space that was protected from the oppression they were working to change. The children felt that as the issue was with boys, no boys should be allowed to be involved in the creation process. Walton noted that on reflection, this actually gave the girls increased confidence in the workshop because they were not worried about the boys taking control of the equipment or laughing at their activities.
- Walton (the facilitator) was able to bring in examples of other relevant work that could be used for inspiration. This gave the children ideas of how their work could look and also gave them to chance to research and become inspired by the pieces they saw. For example the bold lettering on the posters was taken from the work of Barbara Kruger because they liked the way the words jumped out. This inspired the bold lettering they used on the final posters.
The participatory project is overall very interesting. There is a good degree of collaboration and this has allowed for the visions of the photographer and participator to be seen. The way in which the project went about being conducted shows a good use of practise and it has engaged and allow the participant to make important decisions, rather than leaving it all down the photographer. In this sense, the work is every bit the participants as it is the photographer and this is what makes it a special type of format to work in. I love the project and the way it was created, despite the fact now-a-days it might not be so accepted in terms of equal opportunities etc. But in terms of the results they got, I am really impressed and inspired by how they worked together to achieve the results they did.