Interview with the photographers in the ‘Marginal’ exhibition at Re:Centre gallery

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The photographers Chiara Ceolin, Claudia Leisinger, Jonathan Goldberg, Mareike Gunsche, Parveen Ali, Wamaitha Ng’ang’a, presenting their work in the upcoming exhibition ‘Marginal’ share their projects’ insights and aims in a series of interviews. Further info on the exhibition is here

Claudia Leisinger

Europe Revisited: Building a Future for the Roma

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The UN released a statement of concern about the Roma’s exclusion, inequitable access to education, housing, employment and legal protection in Serbia.
In “Europe Revisited” I focus on a small number of Serbian Roma families, now taking part in a national (and E.U. membership-driven) initiative to help them to improve their existing substandard houses by themselves.  Currently, there are more than 600 settlements, mostly inhabited by Roma, without access to essentials, like water, sewage and electricity. The initiatives innovative structure has a strong emphasis on individual responsibility. From initial application to actual construction, the families are in an active position. It also provides real incentive for Roma families, surrounding communities and municipality to work together. Thus, the hope is that this interaction potentially creates new perspectives and a new understanding of each other’s lives.

“How should we distribute our shared but finite resources and services?”
“Who should be entitled to what? “
“How much must minorities conform to established social norms for integration to be successful? “

We all need to urgently discuss these questions to push against the fear-driven isolationist movements that are taking hold in our societies and to ultimately find a more equal way to distribute our finite resources.

Aims of the project
One of my aims with this project is to add to the discussion on how we could share our finite resources and services in a more effective and inclusive manner.  While staying with these families, I witnessed how longstanding poverty corrodes one option for improvement after another. It slowly seeps into every aspect of life until the person is rendered truly powerless.   From the small tooth infection left untreated and which may lead to a disfiguring abscess, to the more mundane but daily invasion of fleas: the experience is often that of a hostile environment.   I wonder about the interplay of control and success in our societies and the value we attach to individuals who exert control over their environment.  It makes sense, then, that our capability to dominate is a very important factor in determining how well we integrate into the mainstream. But what does that mean – in Serbia and in Western societies alike – for people who either choose not to, or are unable to dominate their environment, and can’t exert the same degree of control over their lives?

About Claudia
In 2007 Claudia completed an MA in Photojournalism at the London College of Communication. Since then she has worked as portrait and documentary photographer and filmmaker for NGOs, think tanks, foundations, magazines, newspapers and commercial clients.   Throughout her photographic practice she has worked on self-initiated projects like “Europe Revisited” and the resulting photo essays and multimedia pieces have been published among others in the Guardian and the NZZ and exhibited widely nationally and internationally.


Speak Out

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‘Speak Out’ is an ongoing photography project focusing on women – survivors of domestic violence. Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviours used to establish control over another person, including but not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse. This includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Forced Marriage. Domestic abuse still remains a taboo across many cultures. The project highlights and raises awareness of those multiple layers, and it serves to amplify the voices of women who have taken a stand and broken the silence about their personal experiences of domestic abuse and its devastating effects.

Aims of the project
The project highlights and raises awareness of multiple layers of domestic abuse, in addition, it serves to amplify the voices of women who have taken a stand and broken the silence about their personal experiences of domestic abuse and its devastating effects – and the journey to move forward, not as victims, but as survivors.

About Waimatha
Wamaitha Ng’ang’a is a multimedia photographer based in London, England.She has an interest in women issues and culture and identity.

Chiara Ceolin

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This project was born to celebrate the dignity of young survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage and amplify their voice. Despite the horrors they have been through and the poverty they are trapped in, the girls still have dreams and hopes. They all are clear that the way to change their society and move forward is to offer more education to children and in particular to girls. Over 200 million girls live worldwide with the physical and psychological consequences of FGM. Each year 12 million girls are married before they are 18 years old. Both traditions are based on gender inequality and fuelled by poverty, lack of education and insecurity. Teenage girls in rural Tanzania face a patriarchal and sexist society that often forces them into child marriage, FGM and sexual violence. Education for the majority of the girls is not an option as they can’t afford the school fees. But there are signs of change. Some girls have founded a group called Sister to Sister to help each other, share their skills and run small businesses with the support of local NGO Children’s Dignity Forum and Forward UK.

Aims of the project
Child Mothers in Tanzania is part of a bigger project based on the use of photography as a tool to empower survivors of trauma and to document their stories with different media. I ran a participatory workshop with a group of young FGM and child marriage survivors to teach them some basic photography and explore their emotions using portraiture and group discussion. By the end of the third and last day, the shy and quiet girls had raised their voices, willing to express their opinions and able to create beautiful portraits of each other. Once the workshop had finished, I visited each girl in her home and only then I took portraits and video-interviewed them. I used a Polaroid camera to show them their unique portraits and to allow them to hand-write their dreams, fears and hopes on them.

About Chiara
Chiara Ceolin is a documentary photographer and participatory workshops facilitator. Her background in trauma psychology lead her to explore and tell trauma survivors’ stories both in the UK and internationally. Chiara was commissioned by Thomson Reuters Foundation to document FGM in the UK and to produce a multimedia piece on child marriage in Tanzania.  Chiara developed an innovative participatory workshop for domestic abuse survivors in the last two years. She works for several charities that find her work extremely beneficial for survivors. World Photography Organisation interviewed her on this topic recently.                                                                                                                                                                               

Parveen Ali

Get Out of My Country

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‘Get Out of My Country’ is a personal project about how Islamophobia had a
direct impact on my life. In a series of photos, I share the after effects of being
harassed in my neighbourhood and how it made me feel.

Aims of the project
This project aims to bring awareness of Islamophobia within Britain how the rise of the Far Right has increased attacks on women, who look and dress like me.
About Parveen
A British photographer based in London, who covered the refugee crisis and has
campaigned for Humans Rights, Homelessness Social Justice, Poverty, and
Mental Health. Her work has been published in the Evening Standard, HuffPost
and book “After Grenfell”. In March 2019 she gave a speech in the Houses of
Parliament on how Islamophobia affects mental health. Also had an exhibition
“Not A Terrorist” in Parliament.

Photos in the Evening Standard & HuffPost

Twitter: @HijabiTographer
Instagram: #hijabi_tographer


Positive Stories 

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My series “Positive stories” is a collaborative multimedia portrait series that explores the personal stories of people living with HIV to create visibility and fight stigmatisation. The project focuses on presenting a wide variety of personal stories of people living with HIV. This series is a collaboration: a photographic portrait presents the person and the audio interview captures the personal story of the diagnosis, the ways of accepting it and how living with the virus turned out. By letting the person tell their own story the interview is also an oral history creating an archive of stories for future generations. The people I portray are all open about their status; most of them are great activists fighting the stigma of HIV/Aids. The project will show the amazing progress the community living with HIV made towards greater equality through community engagement, advocacy and legal reform

Aims of the project
I have been working as a professional photographer for almost 20 years. My background is photojournalism and news photography. I was always interested in how photography strengthens and reassures power dynamics, stereotypes and hierarchies and how this could be changed. My passion is using photography as a tool of empowerment and social change, to open the perspective to a variety of personal angles. Therefore, I focus on collaborations and participatory methods. I see this project as a collaboration: the portrayed one is telling their story and I assist and take a portrait in a way the person likes to be presented.  Experiencing the pain and struggle of dear friends being diagnosed with HIV I made me interested in the stigmatisation and discrimination related to HIV. As a friend once said “It is not the virus that gives me trouble, it is the reaction of society.” By the end of 2017, 36.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV. Creating space to tell stories of everyday people living with HIV, I hope to stimulate conversation to address prejudices. My wish is that one day taking an HIV test would become as normal as a vaccination. In Germany there are 140,000 people living with the virus without even knowing it and of course not getting any medication. If the stigma of HIV could be erased and people would get tested and treated, this would have a massive positive impact on the infection rate.

About Mareike
I am a London-based photographer and educator focusing on human rights, social change and development. My passion is photography’s ability to empower though imagery. Also I am Senior Lecturer for Photography at the Mongolian State University of Arts and I teach workshops on participatory photography. My projects are either collaborations or participatory, I want to work with people and not tell their story. After working as a press-photographer, I studied photojournalism and documentary photography. I worked extensively for international media and as a stringer for Reuters news agency. I lived in Mongolia for four years and did extensive work in the humanitarian sector working for organisations such as Red Cross, Syria Relief, the German Relief Coalition ADH and the German development bank KFW. My project “Dragkings” was awarded the Canon Award for young Photographers; my series “You Are My Sister” about a Mongolian transgender woman won “The Other Hundred” award. The project, which had the biggest impact was “ Our Voice”, a project that helped to create visibility of domestic violence in Mongolia and contributed to the establishment of a law that recognises domestic violence as a crime. My work has been exhibited in Europe, Asia and the US. More information can be found on my homepage.


The Runway Stops Here | Grow Heathrow 

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On the site of an abandoned plant nursery in West London there lies a unique living space, where an assortment of people have come together to form an off-grid community. It was first occupied over 7 years ago by environmental protesters angry at proposals to build a third runway. Their intention was to create a hub for local residents to fight a campaign against the demolition of their houses. Today Grow Heathrow has evolved into a complex eco-village, and the threat of airport expansion is as real as it was then. When I first visited the site in 2011 I felt as though I’d stumbled upon a utopia, and was immediately moved to take pictures. But as time passed it became evident that life isn’t always rosy: the threat of eviction is never far away and winters can be cold and bleak.

Aims of the project
My intention for visiting Grow Heathrow was to highlight how a community can survive without using fossil fuels, a task which we as a species need to adopt urgently, according to current UN reports. After my initial visits to photograph energy workshops – creating solar panels and wind turbines – I was drawn back by other activities, and by the optimistic spirit of the group. There were foraging workshops, wild swimming adventures and skipping for free-food at market closing time, all of which were about living with a low carbon footprint. Such is the sense of purpose about the place that I felt impelled to make many return visits over a 6 year period, documenting the people and place with the hope of inspiring others.

About Jonathan
Jonathan Goldberg is a London-based photographer and filmmaker, whose personal work addresses peoples relationship with the planet. He was recently selected for a 6 month residency with the Canal and River Trust, to start in May 2019.  His project The Runway Stops Here highlights the plight of Grow Heathrow, an off-grid community located next to Heathrow Airport. It was a 6 year project that was published in the National Geographic, and exhibited at Oriel Colwyn in Wales. The accompanying short film that Goldberg made was selected for screening at the Portobello Film Festival, and was shortlisted at the Earth Awards (both 2018). A previous short film about a local fruit harvesting group won Best Video at the Environmental Photographer of the Year, 2013. In 2014 Goldberg was commissioned for a photo essay on One Planet Living around Sustainable Transport, which culminated in a high profile exhibition across a large wall at Brighton Train Station (2014).
Ig & Twitter: @mrjongoldberg

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