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How IMPREINT challenged our views on homelessness with his latest project “cut off”

I’ve been invited to testify to ‘cut off’ (link) a challenging project from the artist IMPREINT about homelessness. “Cut off” really opened my eyes to the reality of what was happening in London with the homeless and how we take a warm bed for the night for granted. Take in a view of London in the early hours of the morning and you will see all sorts of characters but most importantly the scenes you take in will challenge you. The artist invited me to shoot the 24th of December and view how he approached the subject and then I had the opportunity to ask with him about the project.

Q: How was it to run this project for one year?

A: I haven’t realized it yet, once finished I need to take a break and then make full considerations.

Q: Did it affect your life?

A: Well, I used filters to preserve myself from too much pain and implications but is impossible to not be touched. I’ll give you a simple example, before when I was going to sleep and there was rain I was just enjoying the sound. Now I think of those that are in the street and have to find a place to cover themselves. The sight is reflected in my memories that I’ll never forget and that I live with.

Q: You asked me to come specifically between 4 and 6 am, was there a specific reason?

A: Because I consider this the most genuine time to understand the issue. There is no lie and it is silent, surreal.

Q: I always found the pictures of this project so powerful, do you plan to exhibit them?

A: I haven’t planned anything since the beginning, it was just something that I decided to do in an open and resolute way for one year. This project in itself is finished in its aesthetic, silence and meditation. I’m working on other things, but is too early to talk about that.

Q: Did you expect so many positive reactions?

A: You don’t start a project like this one to please or be pleased, you start because you strongly believe in what you are doing. I thank you with gratitude whoever kindly gave his contribution in whatever form to what I’m doing or I’ve done and fortunately most of us still have sensitiveness, but I don’t base my work in expectations or having necessarily pleasant feedbacks. My work finishes in the moment that I’ll propose it, the rest is something that doesn’t have to concern me and I don’t personally manage. My answers are ultimately my artworks.

Q: What did you realize regarding this issue during the project?

A: That we are distant from our emotions. That we forgot our original purpose and that we need to pay more attention. We are lost, we try to escape from the reality thinking that this will protect us, when we just escape from ourselves we are creating even more damage. What is happening is our mirror, but we don’t want to look at. We become indifferent, we classify and categorize everything because this give us ‘safety’. We defined a person with needs that is in the street: a homeless person. This is ridiculous, the earth belongs to us and is the home of all of us! Personally I’ve listened to enough words that doesn’t follow through with actions. But I want to believe in our souls, so let’s learn how to be in contact for real with our emotions, stopping, observing and acting. We shouldn’t accept as conventional that someone is sleeping in the street. Let’s rid get rid of our fears, preconceptions, habits, rules and proposals of a pre-packaged society and let’s show this famous love that we are talking about. Collective action is made by individuals. Let’s start to take responsibility without waiting for others or blaming something or someone.

Q: Do you have suggestions of how to approach this?

A: By doing the experience with open arms, by being present, sitting with them instead of looking at them and using the same good manners that you’ll use if you’ll visit a friend of yours. There is not a homeless person in front of you, but there is a person like you to treat with respect and kindness starting from the simplest things. If you want offer a coffee for example, don’t forget to ask which type and with how much sugar. It can look obvious, but believe me it has been one year that I’m in the streets and it doesn’t seem so. I’m seriously concerned about our attitude and we should feel ashamed of how we treat each other, remembering that there is no love that is wasted. A beautiful garden doesn’t exist if the people die outside starving.

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Capturing Community Spirit

During this summer I was commissioned to document the activities of Creative Barking and Dagenham’s neighbourhood commission on the Heath Park Estate where I live (https://www.facebook.com/heathparkart). The neighbourhood was signalled as an area of low arts participation and two artists; Isa Suarez and Marcelo Sanchez-Camus, were given an adventurous six month commission to build a project which engaged more people in the arts. From conversing with residents a series of workshops were developed that would eventually result in a show to display what had been learned. Seeing this evolution I was keen to offer the two artists more than just a documenting of their project. I wanted to provide a visual memoir of the workshops and performance that residents could take away but also providing a lasting image of the strength of the community that exists and has been strengthened by art. I divided the photos into three sections detailing the elements of the two different workshops and the production for the show and this formed an exhibition which I put up in the shop that was acquired and used as a hub for the project.

African Drumming

Here you can see photographs I took during the drumming classes led by Zedekiah Rhythm Section. For these workshops I was keen to capture the natural joy and reactions of the participants. Watching the participants I got a clear sense that through the process of drumming everyone lost their inhibitions and cares and that was I was trying to represent. The use of the heartbeat rhythm in the workshop also broke down barriers between people and I tried to make this as clear as possible in the photos. Listening to the philosophies behind his workshop from Zed was a pleasure and made the exhibition that much easier to create.

Parkour

Here are pictures taken during the Parkour training that took place outdoors on this estate and were coached by Yao from Parkour Generations. For these workshops I was keen to capture a sense of movement and progression. My impression of these workshops was that participants were being taught to own the space, to react to it in their own way and to move through it despite the obstacles and I found these ideas very inspiring. It was also very clear that a supportive team formed out of the training always egging each other on to tackle tougher things.

Behind the Scenes

Here are the behind the scenes preparations and production of the Heath Spark show. I wanted to capture a sense of the community and the artists coming together to create something special and beautiful but in a joyous and not laborious way.

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My collaboration with IMPREINT – connecting Dagenham to the world

 I’m a young photographer and as part of my recent work with Creative Barking and Dagenham’s Neighbourhood Commission in the Heath Park estate I’ve had the great chance to meet and collaborate with the artist IMPREINT. I feel glad to have had this opportunity and that he has decided to bring his global project ‘Portraits‘ to this disadvantaged area where I have grown up.

Once the car manufacturing hub of London, Dagenham has become an area characterised by high levels of poverty and immigration but this is what gives it its character: a spirit of defiance and a battle for survival. Dagenham also been identified as an area of low arts participation leading to the creation of charities and various projects to help improve this.

‘Portraits’ was launched December 2013 and has been shared worldwide linking people with a simple but powerful picture of a balloon. I found this project inspiring because the commonality of the balloon linked local residents with people all over the world with a simple object. Portraits allowed us to show a connection between a small council estate in London and worldwide locations such as Syria. Art is the best way of bringing people together no matter how far apart they are.

Thanks to this incredible meeting, I’ve decided to launch my blog as a photographer where I will soon be releasing images of my project on the Heath Park.

During the exhibition in Dagenham the artist generously offer me the chance to take some pictures of portraits and I feel honoured to be part of this worldwide group. Portraits allowed me to shoot some really captivating subjects whom each displayed a unique character when posed for the shot.

The meaning of the project was participation, so personally I’ll publish the picture of everyone I shot for respect, except those that they themselves have posted to the page.