Archive for June, 2010

Shooting Young Offenders

June 22, 2010

Not literally… I have volunteered to spend my summer holidays with ten high-risk young offenders.  A strange choice I know, but it is a fantastic opportunity and I am always one for a challenge.  As a photographer, I am excited that I have a social documentary project to look forward to.  I see it as a privilege to work alongside these young people.  As a member of the public, I am nervous and if I am honest, a little bit scared.  As a mum, I am both intrigued and worried.

This all came about because my photographic canvas art was exhibited in a gallery in Batley, West Yorkshire.  I heard that the owner ran a Summer arts college for young offenders and curiosity got the better of me.  Before I knew it, I had moved our family holiday into term-time (rapped knuckles from three schools) and volunteered to document the whole project using photography.

Now that it isn’t far away, I am working hard on research and developing my concepts. The course is designed to expose these young people to a variety of art forms.  In return for completing a number of projects, they get a qualification – for many this will be the first that they have ever got.  The idea is that they respond to the trust that is shown them, and the encouragement given to them, and they get a sense of pride in their achievement and decide against reoffending.

The project is called ‘A Different Window.’  If they see the world through a different window, they may react to it differently, engage with it differently.  Or will they think that it is a load of rubbish and play up?

I want to create a set of images which show the personal journey that they go on.  My nervousness comes from shooting in what I expect to be tense or confrontational situations; what will their reaction to me be? What have these young people been through?  How will I relate to them?  What are they capable of?  What do I think about what they have done?  Do I believe in investing in them in this way or should there be tougher penalties to discourage reoffending?  What will happen to them afterwards?  What can I learn so that my own children are never in their situation?