Jim Mortram, is a social documentary photographer and writer, based in Dereham, Norfolk. He is well known for his powerful and ongoing project , Small Town Inertia, which records the lives of a number of disadvantaged and marginalised people living near to his home, in order to tell stories he believes are under-reported.
Kristian Buus, is a freelance photographer based between London and Copenhagen. Much of Kristian’s work is covering protests and civil disobedience which relates to climate change issues and civil rights. Over the years he has been on the frontline of many direct actions in the UK following events, often very fast moving, involving police and a lot of stress covering them from a news perspective. Over the past few years, Kristian has focused on getting to know through portraiture and interviews, what drives people who put themselves at risk of arrest and possible injury, to amplify their voices. With this approach, he has covered the early stages of Extinction Rebellion and the Stansted 15 protests.
Maria Tomas Rodriguez, is a senior lecturer in Aeronautical Engineering in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering. Among the many awards, Maria has won the Best Documentary Photography Award at the prestigious 2019 British Photography Awards with her work that focuses on Senegalese traditions.The Photojournalism Nights is an event that promotes committed and courageous photojournalism and engages the public to social justice and human rights.
Claire Thomas is a photographer and photojournalist from Wales, UK, currently based between London and New York. Her photojournalism work focuses on issues relating to global political and military conflicts, human rights, and humanitarian and environmental crises. During her extraordinary career, Claire has produced compelling and timely images and has been extensively covering frontlines battles in ISIS in Iraq.
Q. How did you end up going to Iraq?
In December 2016, I decided to travel to Iraq independently with the goal of focusing on stories related to the military offensive to liberate the city of Mosul and the humanitarian crisis of people displaced by ISIS. Before that, I was based in Greece covering the refugee crisis where I met Kurdish and Iraqi families who had been displaced by ISIS. Hearing their stories, I wanted to better understand the horror that was driving people to flee their homes and risk their lives trying to reach the safety of European shores. As there was a lot of media attention on the war against ISIS in Mosul at the time, I decided to head to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and an entry point to Mosul.
Q. How long were you there for in total?Will you go back?
My first visit to Iraq was for just 2 weeks, but I returned a few weeks later and ended up living in northern Iraq for two and a half years. I’ve been back for a few short trips since I left in June last year, and I hope to return later this year or next year. Erbil was my home for a long time, and I became very fond of the place and the people, so I think I’ll always go back whenever the opportunity arises. There’s certainly no shortage of stories to cover in the country, and I’m particularly interested to follow the progress of rebuilding the city of Mosul, which was heavily bombed during the battle against ISIS.
Q. This is very traumatic work, what do you do to decompress after a trip like this? How do you look after your mental health while working?
I was lucky to have a great support network in Iraq, among other photographers and journalists, the medics I embedded with in Mosul, and also local friends and fixers. My way of decompressing is simply to talk about the situation, which helps me process my own thoughts and feelings, and I was glad that I had a lot of people I could talk to in Iraq.
I think it’s important to be aware of the emotional impact of doing this kind of work, and also to keep in mind that, as outsiders, it’s our choice to be there and we’re extremely lucky to be able to leave the war zone and go back to the safety of our homes at any time.
Of course, being confronted by violence and death is challenging and disturbing, and even more so is seeing people suffering the terror, pain and loss of war. The images that stick in my mind are of mothers crying over the bodies of their children, of soldiers wailing uncontrollably over a fallen comrade, of proud fathers broken by the loss of their loved ones, and the tearless look of shock on the faces of traumatised children. However, I try to focus my thoughts and energy on the incredible strength and resilience of the survivors and the people who helped them survive.
Q. I’m new to photojournalism – self teaching at the moment. How did you get started and did you go through formal means? And how did you get to work in Iraq? Did you pitch to someone as an independent? Would be great to know how it all works.
I’m also self-taught with no formal training in photojournalism. I studied Politics at University, and after I graduated I spent several years travelling and working overseas. During that time, I developed my interest and skills in photography, and eventually started doing some freelance photography work for my local newspaper in Wales. After a few assignments in Wales I travelled to Palestine where I began producing photo essays about life in the occupied West Bank, which I pitched to several mainstream media outlets.
As a freelancer, I really appreciate having the flexibility and freedom to choose which countries I work in and which stories I cover. Of course, that flexibility comes with the necessity for extreme self-motivation, self-discipline and organisation, as well as the financial burden of paying our own expenses in the hope of selling the work afterwards.
My decision to go to Iraq was one I made independently – I wasn’t sent there by any media outlet. Once I arrived in Erbil, I spoke with a lot of other journalists and fixers to better understand the context and get an idea of stories I could cover that weren’t as widely covered as the military operation in Mosul. In the beginning, I captured the content needed for the story I wanted to cover – photos and interviews – and then sent a pitch with a small sample of images to media outlets. Once editors got to know me and my work, I started to get more commissioned assignments, often working alongside a writer.
It took me a long time to understand how the industry works for freelancers. For me, the most difficult part about being a freelance photojournalist is not the photography or journalism work itself but finding ways to get the attention of editors and my work published. I’m still learning myself, and the best advice I can give is to be persistent and determined, and get to know the publications you want to contribute to.
Clare Thomas www.clairethomasphotography.com https://www.instagram.com/claire_thomas_photography/
Felipe Paiva is a photojournalist from Brazil currently based in Paris, France. He is a post graduate in cinema and photojournalism and has been working on field covering countries such as France, Brazil, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and Russia, including frontline work.
Q. How do you find a not obvious story to document? Any advice to new photojournalists?
To any new person, in any field, I would recommend doing a bit of the obvious. For the sole reason of getting familiar to the operations involved in the work. To find a non-obvious story I would say it is a good thing to get an obvious story and from that, extract something more personal. Maybe a character on that story has something that is not really related to the story but it is super interesting or of human value.
One example is something I did in Ukraine. I went there to do work related to the conflict but I ended up meeting a gymnastic athlete from Donetsk. She took me to their training gym and I could have gone after her persona story. A young girl that dreams of going into the Olympics. Donetsk is known for having good athletes but nowadays is not part of any recognized country. So, its citizens train very hard, with old equipment, in a region that has seen its economy devastated by the ongoing conflict. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because of the short time I had in the whole country.
I hope that helps a bit. Other than that, go and do lots of stories, even if they won’t be published or if they are very local and “small”
The third Photojournalism Nights event guests speakers Jillian Edelstein, Roland Ramanan, Valentina Schivardi answer questions posed from the audience on their work and practice. Their answer lead us into their journey of resilience and commitment in voicing stories of prejudice, injustice and poverty.
From Sabrina Merolla : Well, you say you are not a photojournalist, but you are showing a stunning example of long-form traditional documentary photography. And the method you described, plus the interviews, make me think of serious socio-anthropological research perspectives. Out of curiosity: what do you teach and what kind of formation do you have? I would certainly say that I am working within the long form documentary tradition with people like Eugene Richards being a big influence. Richards was a social worker and I am a special needs teacher. I started as a primary school teacher and now I work with a local authority advisory service. I think this gives me a certain training to be able to work with people, empathise and present my ideas.
Really powerful stories and you have shown them all as whole human beings without judgement. You obviously gained their trust, how did you establish consent?
I establish consent by showing them honesty and trying to be clear about what I am doing. That was not always easy and I had set backs. A piece about my work in the local newspaper (which I thought was written sensitively) damaged my relationship with some individuals for a long time. I have more or less given up on trying to get formal written consent, I think it establishes more barriers than it removes. I try to show the work as its developing as much as I can practically can. At the start of the project I didn’t really know what my aims were, now I can be much clearer with people what I’m trying to do and that really helps to build trust. That, and just being there; relentlessly!
Roland, how do you feel about the work now and how do you see the work evolving or is it now finished.
Well, its not finished in terms of becoming a book. I have this on good advice from my mentor and others I trust so I need to keep working and thinking about different angles. Sometimes, nothing happens in the work and I get very down and frustrated but it just takes one good picture to lift my spirits. Just being there and hanging out for hours is something I find gets harder but its what I need to do. You need to find new angles to generate different situations. So at the moment , that means going to the foodbank/church and joining there – once it starts up again. That may lead to other things like photographing a baptism which would be amazing – tantalisingly now just out of reach. But I’m in no particular hurry.
Very interesting work but there are some ethical issues for me when photographing vulnerable people. Do you make people aware of the fact the photos are being made public? Do you get model release forms from people?
I did worry a lot, previously about model release but I don’t need it for a documentary/art project. It is non-commercial use. In the end, you simply have to demonstrate your own integrity and question your own motives over and over again. No model release is a substitute for that.
Roland Ramanan’s compelling image of Nina from his powerful ‘Gillett Square’ series is featured among other great photographers in Paul Sng’s This Separated Isle photobook, which is currently being crowdfunded on- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/invisiblebritain/this-separated-isle If you can, please support this photobook of stories and portraits exploring concepts of identity in modern Britain.
How did you protect yourself from the trauma of these stories?
I think it was hard for people to see people (mainly men) who had performed unspeakable acts and atrocities, walk free …but the concept of forgiveness espoused by Tutu, Mandela allowed that to happen. It is to be commended and admired. It was a powerful ‘tool’ to call upon, to draw out, to involve many victims of human rights abuse, torture and conflict. The fact that it happened was remarkable. It helped. It may not have healed but it was powerful in the transition process. I don’t think it ever hoped to turn things around overnight. The compromise is that it is human fragility, survival , emotion at stake ; sadly we don’t seem to learn from history.The after effects of Apartheid and it’s ugly legacy will be felt for decades to come.I was lucky enough to be able to ‘come and go’ as I had my work, my family life in the UK, so being able to leave it, feel a certain distance from it and then later revisit the horror of it intermittently was an enormous saving attribute.
Excellent thanks! How long did you document their ceremonies and are you still in touch with the community? The first ceremony was back in 2009. Yes, we are still in touch – I’m still working on this project.
Just wondered why the men in this community were not featured so much in the photos?
I guess because women are more photogenic. I’m just kidding. Actually, there were more men than women featured in the editing I showed.
Is the project ongoing? what’s next?
Yes, it’s an ongoing project. I’d love to make a book next.
When you were working on the project were you thinking about making photographs for them at the same time as making pictures for yourself? Did you take different approach for these?
This is a very interesting question for me. Yes, when I’m working on this project I think about both taking pictures for them as well as for myself, which can be tricky. Luckily, it’s been clear in my head since the beginning: I was able to start this project because I was hired to take photos for them. This allowed me to find a point of entry to their community. When possible, I work with an assistant, to make sure that he/she can cover the event for them, so that I can focus on my own project.
Given that the subjects seemed very keen to pose, did you capture moments where subjects had their guards down?
Oh yes. This is a question I had in my head since the beginning. What makes a photograph a more authentic and honest representation of someone? On one hand, it’s fascinating to see how my subject is very conscious of the camera. There’s something very strong about the way they always seem to know exactly how to pose. On the other hand, I’m also interested in showing how contradictory and much more complex we can be, by trying to capture my subjects off guard.
Oh yes. This is a question I had in my head since the beginning. What makes a photograph a more authentic and honest representation of someone? On one hand, it’s fascinating to see how my subject is very conscious of the camera. There’s something very strong about the way they always seem to know exactly how to pose. On the other hand, I’m also interested in showing how contradictory and much more complex we can be, by trying to capture my subjects off guard.
Kashmir in the last 30 years has been reduced to a land of pain and misery with thousands dead, disappeared, raped, detained and tortured. When an anti-India insurgency began in 1989, the mighty forces that India employed here crushed the rebellion. Since then more than 90,000 people have died and 8,000are disappeared.
The ongoing conflict mounted scars not only on the adults but the new generation. The young children’s were badly affected with hundreds killed, thousands blinded, amputated bodies, and detained in Indian jails.
With more than half a million Indian troops stationed, Kashmir has the distinction of being the most heavily militarized zone in the world. The Indian forces enjoy special powers under laws such as the Armed Forces special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives them immunity and impunity to arrest or kill anyone on mere suspicion, without the fear of facing legal action.
The turmoil has devastated an entire generation. People have gone through worst in these turbulent times. The story is all about the Children’s who are the Future of Kashmir and a yearning of new generation to live a life of peace and dignity.
The images shot by me are somehow my own childhood experiences, as I grew in such condition seeing things periodically right from the time when rebellion broke out in Kashmir.
Mubashir Hassan Mubashir Hassan is a freelance photojournalist based in Kashmir valley, India. For the past six year, Mubashir has covered many stories on politics, conflict, human rights violations, as well as day to day life, art, culture and architecture. He is available for assignments.
On the project ‘Children: The forgotten future of Kashmir’ is an ongoing project by photojournalist Mubashir Hassan that focuses on the children living under the conflicted area of Kashmir valley. It documents the impact that the conflict has on their lives; from being physically maimed, psychologically traumatised and deprived of a future. ‘Children: The forgotten future of Kashmir’ is a personal project. It is an important story that needs to be seen and told. If you would like to support Mubashir, please be in touch with him. He is looking for commissions, representation and/or donations, which albeit small would make a huge difference for him. You can get in touch with Mubashir directly on:
Nestled in the countryside, just beyond the dust and chaos of Siem Reap’s tourist traps and frantic roads, is the village Prima. Here, one man has committed his life to improving the future of his local community members, neighbours and friends.
Despite its booming tourism, Siem Reap remains one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, with 45% of the population living under the poverty line. There’s a clear divide between the flashy hotels and packed restaurants of the vibrant cities, to the bumpy roads and fruit stalls of the neighbouring villages.
And it’s there, down a chewed up dusty path, burnt orange in colour, surrounded by wooden huts and cows chomping lazily in the fields beside them, that you’ll find Jimmy Chan.
Born into poverty in 1987, Jimmy’s life started tough. Cambodia was still plagued by misery and war as it continued struggling to recover from the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. The radical communist movement resulted in the killing of around two million people between 1972 and 1975. He grew up witnessing the damage done to his country and the hardship it caused for his family and those around him in Prima. He saw how poor the quality of teaching was and noticed how quickly children from rural areas like his were falling behind. ‘After the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia didn’t have any more educated people,’ he says. ‘All the academics were killed.’ Jimmy made it his goal to do something to improve this situation. He says, ‘My aim is to help to change this country step by step, through education.’ He decided to start teaching English to children growing up in circumstances very similar to his own in a bid to offer them a better future.
He says, despite being hungry to learn, that these children face a multitude of obstacles in their search for education, ‘They come from a very poor background and the village schools aren’t a good standard. They don’t have a lot of free time as many of them have housework, siblings and animals to tend to.’ Many of the families in his village and surrounding communities can’t afford the materials to send their children to school, so they are forced to take them out of education at an early age.
‘Most people here work as fishermen or farmers. Some people are earning just a dollar a day,’ Jimmy explained, ‘I’m trying to give everyone a chance.’ And since 2011, that chance has been seized by more and more people. Today, Jimmy teaches free of charge to 150 students over 6 nights a week from his classroom setup in his Mother’s backyard. It’s cramped, sweaty and there aren’t quite enough chairs for all of the students. Nobody seems to mind, however, with some keen beans even sitting cross-legged on the floor at the front in a bid to soak in every word of his lesson.
His first class is full of little ones, with kids as young as three venturing across the fields on their trikes to learn. Even at that age, their eagerness and happiness to be there is clear; a stark contrast to many students in Western schools today. As the night draws in, hundreds of bugs creep from out of the shadows and buzz around the flickering florescent light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The children aren’t phased. They stay engaged on their teacher, nonchalantly pulling flying beetles out of their hair while they absorb the information. Jimmy draws on his own experiences in the hopes of opening their eyes to the possibilities education can offer them. Like many of his students, he didn’t have the funds to attend a top international school in the city but this didn’t deter him from wanting to succeed and become a fluent English speaker.
‘During the day when I was younger, I cycled to Angkor Wat temple to practice my English with foreigners. At night I went to the city to speak with the international tourists,’ he says. And it’s clear that determination and work ethic are still a driving force within him today. ‘I work every day as a tuk-tuk driver and tour guide from morning until evening before class. I normally wake up at 5am every day but sometimes before 3am for the sunrise tours’.
Jimmy’s efforts are paying off, having obtained a bachelor degree in English as a Foreign Language and Teaching, his school is now on its way to being a state recognised institution. His message is clear: you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and study hard.
Back in the classroom, the air is thick with a mixture of humidity, hope and determination. The students are given an opportunity to come to the front and practice speaking to the class. Their efforts cause ripples of laughter, but it doesn’t stop them. They’re happy and grateful to be there.
One of the boys, aged 13, is headed for a scholarship to a top international school in the city. His English is exceptional, making it easy to ask him what he thinks of the school and it’s teacher. ‘Jimmy’s a great teacher,’ he says. ‘He’s an inspiration to us all.’ When questioned on whether he thinks he’ll be able to stay on this path and get to where he’s headed, his answer is entirely relatable and, for a moment, he could be any kid, from anywhere in the world. ‘I hope so but I need to study harder and spend less time playing volleyball and football with friends’.
This wouldn’t be the first success story to come out of Jimmy’s school, though. One of his former pupils, Tida, who studied with him for four years, is currently at a university in Phnom Penh, the countries capital. She received a scholarship to study there and is working towards becoming the successful businesswoman she always dreamed of being.
Many of Jimmy’s students have the same or similar career hopes. During the class, students talk about their aspirations, with jobs such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, architects and hotel managers among the most popular. And as they head home at the end of the evening with another night of English lessons under their belts, they can be confident that they’re one step closer to their shot at that scholarship, degree or job. With his work down for the night, Jimmy heads down the road a little way, towards a two-storey concrete building which stands out amongst the huts and fields of Prima, not only because of it’s size, but also it’s colour; it’s painted violet. ‘This is the new school,’ Jimmy explains. ‘After a long time dreaming, it eventually became a reality. This new building has better facilities and will offer the chance to study English, Maths, Khmer and life skills.’ It’s a result of funding and fundraising from the international friends he has made over the years. After all he’s done for his community through teaching and charity work, such as helping to install water filters and paying for street lamps to light the way home for his students, it seems only fitting he be supported in this way.
But he remains humble, saying, ‘I’m so grateful for all the help we’ve received.’His gratitude and warmth are typical of the Khmer people. Despite their circumstances, they demonstrate a powerful resilience and maintain a reputation for being positive and welcoming.
Jimmy is the epitome of this, manifesting hope and spreading a belief that, no matter how the cards are dealt, your situation can get better. He incorporates this message into every one of his classes through a simple statement, repeated in cheers by him and his students: “Education will change your life”. It’s a lesson we’d all do well to remember.
Please join the live stream of the Photojournalist Hub ninth edition of the Photojournalism Nights with an amazing line-up of photographers: Ada Trillo, Georgina Smith and Ala Buisir.
Ada Trillo, award winning Philadelphia-based photojournalist, native to the Juarez-El Paso binational metroplex, covers stories to create awareness and fight injustice. Her powerful photographs engage with migration, Black Lives Matter and borders.
Georgina Smith, photojournalist based in East Africa covering stories, photos and words for BBC, Al Jazeera English, United Nations, Guardian. Georgina will share a very coignant series on Kenya’s pastoralists who face hunger and are under threat of conflict as locust plague is unravelling in the country.
Ala Buisir, documentary photographer currently residing in Ireland with roots in Libya. Her work documents the social and political tension around us today. The aim is to raise awareness by presenting events through different perspectives in hopes that it may also bring about change.
The Photojournalism Nights is an event that promotes committed and courageous photojournalism and engages the public to social justice and human rights.
As Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it is increasing social injustices and bringing inequalities to the forefront. In this fifth edition, documentary photographer David Gilbert Wright shares the touching photo story of Paul, a homeless man who he became friends with during the current pandemic. This photo story highlights the impact of years of austerity on the most poor and exposes the further impact of the outbreak on them. The story of Paul speaks of the many which were already at the receiving end of funding cuts and support and they now in a lot worse conditions. These are issues we need to see, reflect upon and action.
Homeless and Locked Down Paul’s Story
by David Gilbert Wright
It was springtime, and the weather was beautiful. The skies had been clear for several weeks and the sun had been warming up the earth. But this was no normal spring. England was in the grips of an unknown pandemic and the Government had ordered a lockdown. Everyone but a few, were staying home. Buses and trains were empty, roads were empty and we were all trying to adapt to a new way of living. Rules about when you can go out and for what were in place. The population were being ‘frightened’ into believing that hundreds and thousands would catch this new virus and many would die. I was out walking the dog in nearby woods when I came across a tent pitched deep in a thicket, out of sight. I was intrigued. It took several more days before I plucked up the courage to investigate. That was when I met Paul. He was homeless and living in these woods. He was locked down too! Over the next 3-4 months I got to know Paul and he is the subject of this story.
Paul is 52 years old. He had a brother who died in his forties and a sister. He told me that his Mum left home when he was 15 years old. That was the start of things. “I left home and came to London. London was a terrible place back then and being homeless was very dangerous. I was sleeping rough when some one picked me up and took me along to a kind of hostel. You had to ‘book’ a night and then get out in the morning. I think they felt sorry for me and gave me a job sweeping and cleaning the rooms. That saved me. I lived in a house in Thurrock at some point and had a sort of job. I had to go sick and so I lost that job and couldn’t pay the rent so they evicted me. I have been on the move ever since. I don’t like towns. They are too scary. I decided to get a tent and live out in the country somewhere so here I am”. He got up and started to make a little fire. “Now it is warming up, the midges are starting to get on my nerves so I light a fire and the smoke keeps them away” he said laughing.
Paul often walked up to the town. He had broken his hip some time in the recent past and suffered from terrible sciatica. “I have to take pain-killers” he told me, “so I come up to the chemist every week or two to get me repeat prescription. Trouble is, people try to mug me and take my drugs”. We sat for a while in the warm sun and then this woman came along. Her name was Lizzie. She told me that she was what some call a ‘sofa-surfer’. “That’s someone who is homeless and manages to get a place to sleep in someone’s house.” She was in her 50s and had been homeless since the breakdown of her marriage. She was very guarded but alluded to being badly abused and beaten by her partner until she couldn’t stand it anymore and managed to escape. She had several grown-up children and managed to see them occasionally but she also was living a hard life. She told me how difficult it was in the winter. ‘We both try to find something a bit more permanent if we can because you can freeze at nights’ Paul told me.
We were talking in his encampment in the woods one day and he started to tell me about his Faith. It surprised me somewhat. He rummaged around in his tent, beer can in one hand and pulled out a book. It was the Pilgrim’s Progress by Chaucer. I see myself as a kind of pilgrim, always on the move. I am like the guy in the book, in search of something. It is something I can identify with. He rummaged a bit more and pulled out another book. “This is my Bible”. He said “I pray everyday. I try to speak to God. I think He loves me despite my faults. He loves me unconditionally. He does not expect me to change. I feel he forgives me for all the stuff I have done. He is my rock. Later that morning, we were walking up to the town together and he started reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
I asked Paul what he did for food. He told me that he visited a food bank in Brentwood. He told me where it was and I realised that it must take him nearly an hour to walk to it because he was very slow, due to his arthritis and needing a crutch to help. “They are very good and deliver stuff to me sometimes”. The food bank only opens twice a week between 10 and 12 midday. Paul was not usually an early riser. I often got to his tent mid-morning to find him sound asleep. “Jem looks after me. He will always open up if he is around”. So one afternoon we set off on the walk to the Food Bank. We talked about all kinds of things as we walked. Steve was the priest. He found a whole lot of food and Paul was so pleased with the large tin of assorted biscuits, like you get at Christmas. It was then that I realised first-hand how important these food banks are to people like Paul.
“I used to have another guitar but when I stayed a night with this woman she stole it and sold it for 5. Probably spent the money on drugs. Someone gave me another one then a bloke grabbed it off of me. I chased and tracked him down to this shed and got it back. Thing is, the E string was broken, that’s why I haven’t managed to replace it yet. I do a bit of busking to earn a few bob. I like Reggae and Punk and usually do a bit of both or improvise”. He started strumming something with a reggae beat and then sun along. He was making the words up and they were about him and his God or ‘Jah’ as he liked to call Him. On another occasion, we were walking past a charity shop and he saw a violin in the window. He went in and persuaded the assistant to let him try it out. Clearly, Paul was musical. When he came out, I asked what he thought of the violin. “The strings on the bow were all frayed so it was not a good bargain”.
“Some guys came to my camp one night and tried to rob me. It is very dark here in the night and they didn’t have lights. I am pretty good in the dark because I know where everything is. I managed to roll away into the undergrowth and just hide. They couldn’t find me and got very angry. I heard them say something and then heard a ripping sound. Once they had gone I discovered they had ripped me tent. This isn’t the first time” he said pulling out a roll of Gaffer Tape and starting to repair the ripped canvas. Camping out in the woods his not such a halcyon existence!
As the days wore on, I noticed Paul’s demeanor change. He didn’t seem so happy-go-lucky. At one point in June he disappeared for a couple of weeks. He had a phone but often as not, he had no credit or it the battery was flat. Out of the blue, I got a call from him. He told me he had been in hospital. I asked what was up and he said “I have been feeling very low and things got to much and I tried to top me self”. He told me he was being transferred to another hospital and hoped to be out soon. I went by his camp each day to check on things and one day I found him asleep in his tent. He was out of food so I went with him to the food bank. Jem was just leaving but when Paul told him about his illness, he agreed to open up and give him some supplies. Jem went off inside and we sat out in the sun. Paul was sitting very quietly waiting. I couldn’t help seeing the picture in front of me. Here was someone who really needed to talk.
While Paul was in hospital his tent got vandalized again. “Someone slashed it again” he said. I told him I had seen a bunch of teenage kids riding around his camp. “All me stuff got soaked cos the rain came through the whole” he lamented. Paul looked like a shadow of the man I had first met. As we sat quietly, he hung his head and said “I’m not happy, I don’t like living like this. People think I’m happy but I’m not.” I could see he had tears in his eyes. He looked up to the sky and shouted “This is not Heaven!” It was then that I realised that he yearned for the safety and security of a home and a family that many of us take for granted.
I saw Paul several more times then he disappeared and I never saw him again. I don’t know what came of him. All I do know is that when I went back to his camp one evening, I found that his tent had been pulled down, poles broken, bedding scattered around and his clothes flung into the surrounding bushes. Then I spotted his guitar or what was left of it. It was completely smashed up and the pieces were strewn around near what used to be his campfire. But that wasn’t the thing that really got me! As I looked around I noticed something white under a bush amidst the leaf mold of the forest. I went closer and realised I was looking at the discarded copy of his Bible. It was open at the penultimate chapter of the New Testament. It is about Jude, who was also a traveler. He went from city to city spreading the gospel. His name was Judas but has become shortened. He was a living example of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, in contrast to Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him. The picture of the Bible, its pages dirty, crumpled and tattered is a poignant ending to this story about someone who was also ‘discarded’ and homeless during the Lockdown.
If you have work which highlights the social injustices that are being intensified or laid bare by Covid-19 please submit your work to the Photojournalism Hub. Next deadline is the 4th January 2021. Please submit your work to Cinzia D’Ambrosi, firstname.lastname@example.org Further details on how to submit on our Submission page https://photojournalismhub.org/contribute-submissions/
As Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it is increasing social injustices and bringing inequalities to the forefront.
In this fourth edition we show you two strong photography contributions. Firstly, Erhan Us shares a powerful insight into women’s lives and the harm that is inflicted upon them by patriarchal family structures in Iran which is being exacerbated during the pandemic. Secondly, Jo Fountain shares interviews and photographs that focus on the pandemic’s impact upon communities in Manchester.
These are issues we need to see, reflect upon and action.
By Erhan Us
‘The Mummy Project is created to criticise the ‘ornamentation’ and disidentification of women in Iranian society that have their freedoms and preferences exploited. Since lockdown, I wanted to raise awareness on the harm patriarchal family structures incur onto women’s identity and equal rights.‘
Us is a conceptual artist and author. After studying at Bilkent University in TH Management; he was granted to 25+ local and international / honorary awards. He has participated in 70+ exhibitions in 20+ countries. He continues his studies in Sociology & Philosophy at Istanbul and Anadolu Universities. Us is a member of Photographic & Visual Arts Federations, whose book ‘Digital Prestige’ was published in 2018.
“It is true that this world where we have difficulty breathing Now inspires in us only evident disgust A desire to flee without further ado And we no longer read the headlines” A Disappearance by Houellebecq
‘This photo project aims to break down social barriers to reflect how people have stood together as a community during this time despite extreme isolation. It allows us to see the common threads of human experience and within this highlight inequalities and injustices amongst us. There is a power of support and acknowledgement that this is a shared responsibility. We stand together to create our own narratives. The portraits have been collected from around Manchester in the UK and with an open brief people were asked to write messages and signs to summarise their experiences or give words of support out to the world. The response has been varied, highlighting familiar phrases, funny, invites protest, politically charged, esoteric, others personal. Accompanying the portraits are interviews collecting oral histories of personal experiences and issues that have been highlighted such as effects of isolation on mental health, issues with state support responses, social care, lack of funding, and prejudices that have been brought to the foreground to be questioned.
Overwhelmingly people have struggled with the constant and crushing weight of relentless news stories covering daily atrocities and global crisis. There is a network of support around you if you look for it and take part. The window acts as both a lens and a reflection on the messages that have been created. It highlights the power of the word, graffiti, and protest banners. Even in simplified language, and sometimes especially, there is a re-narration of our view of the world.‘
It’s been awful. Just fucking awful. I’ve had many conversations with people and they’re like “I don’t think the pandemic’s been that bad. I’ve been able to think about me and do my yoga and do my music and do my cooking and I’m like fuck you. Tens of thousands of people have died. Fuck you. I’ve absolutely hated it. I genuinely thought I would never see my mum again and that was awful. I’ve not been able to see my niece, like, see’s only a week and a half old but … my brother wasn’t even in the same fucking hospital when his baby went blue. It’s been fucking awful.
It’s been really tough with my mum but even that’s loads better now. Since we’ve been able to see her she’s been loads better. We can’t ‘see’ her, see her, we can just see her through the glass but now that she knows we’re alive I think she’s … I rang her yesterday. So when you ring her you sing songs and sometimes she would join in and sometimes she doesn’t. But yesterday she was singing all the songs and then she made up a little song. She made up this little melody, so I finished singing a song and she just kept singing this little melody she had made up. Adorable. We’re four of us, she’s got four children and we’re all really engaged with her care and really engaged with all of it…. old people with Alzheimer’s I can’t imagine, like millions of people would have died of loneliness.
My friend has got a chronic lung condition and he’s gonna get a letter through the door soon saying it’s OK, you don’t have to shield anymore. He isn’t going to go out the house. If he gets it he will die. So he’s going to loose his job now because the government said he can work now, but he can’t work. They are just not able to test or trace where anything is so you are having these local flare ups like Leister is in lockdown again. Apparently Bradford is really bad and fucking nobody knows what’s going on because they never managed to get rid of the virus anyway and they can’t test for it, or trace for it in the way that would be useful because they’re fucking useless. So people like him will just never be able to leave the house. Or, when am I ever able to give my mum a hug? Children died, children died on their own, it’s awful. Then you’ve got fucking Dominic Cummings driving up to Durham. It’s just awful. People died alone, people couldn’t hold their dying children. I’m working on this local economic… it’s called Local Economic Development but it’s basically how local authorities shape their economies. It’s called Community Wealth
Building, and the whole idea is retaining and creating wealth within the communities. So right now we have a model, for example, if a hospital got it’s laundry done by a local supplier instead of say, Serco. That wealth goes back into the local area, so that local people get employed to do that work and they then spend their money in the local shops and cafes.
In my opinion they should have had lockdown much earlier than they did. Not like you can go out one exercise a day or… like all of that shit that was completely un-policeable so everyone is just doing the fuck they wanted. Obviously we don’t have a fucking police force because they cut that to shit so they had no-one to police it anyway but .. got rid of the virus then we could have had a gradual easing of the Lockdown.. But because we didn’t really lockdown hard enough and we definitely didn’t lockdown early enough we’re in this kind of semi-lockdown, until when?
This is a crisis of globalisation. This crisis basically means the end of Globalisation because it was able to travel so fast and because when trade ceased and when the borders closed, Britain in particular was in a real problem because we don’t have places that produce PPE or places that produce hand sanitiser and we had to mobilise our industries to try and create these things and we had mass shortages. This is why the supermarkets ran out of food. Instead of having spare stuff to sell it’s as and when you need it, and we’re gonna have to move away from that model. Basically we have to make our supply chains much smaller to be able to cope with things like this. People are making tonnes of money out of this it’s perverse. So people that already have money can make more money but people that have no money are just fucked.
The entire world is in transition and transitions are very unnerving and we have no idea what the other side is gonna look like and it’s incredibly anxiety inducing then on top of that hundreds of thousands of people had died. And you read things like today the US has bought up all of this specific drug. It’s not a vaccine but it’s basically like right well so… Africa can just die. India can just die. Europe can just die. So the way that patents work is that you make money out of curing diseases, which also applies to pandemics. It’s just fucked. So you have to disengage a bit, I think.
“I was freaking out because I couldn’t get any food, and it was like what the fuck, how am I going to do this!?
I stick my foot out of the window with a bucket on a string and wait for attractive ladies to come and give me food. But I’m still waiting for them man! I’m starving!
I joke. Dad dropped some stuff off and my mate Mark came with 4 big bags of stuff and I ate chicken boob for about 25 days. The government food package took about 3/4 weeks. I could have dropped dead in that time if people hadn’t have been there. It was pretty nuts. For a lot of understandable reasons people have been very critical of the governments response, but once this food thing was started it was incredible the way that they were getting through to people like us. I got a letter from the the doctors saying that I needed to shield. The way it effects Cerebral Palsy is that even when I get a cold, if I start coughing, my whole body shakes and I have to hold on to something to stop myself falling forward. My body kind of goes all over the place. I think they said that I was okay to calm me down because I was freaking out.
The next thing was, you need to stop yourself going mad, and work, like I say I’ve not worked since 1997. I would have gone super loopy without writing for theatre. That, and I have been making Grandmaster Pea videos. A character I had developed before, who claims he is the Tsar of the disabled, although he is self-appointed.
I kind of felt that there was something coming and I needed to be more safe than other people. I got this feeling and I just shut the door and that was it. That was 3 and something
months ago. I would say that lockdown has been difficult. Just trying to keep yourself going. Once you’ve found a way of doing that, it’s okay. It was worse for me because I lost my Mum as well. She got ill last September and died just before Christmas and dealing with that has been tough. It wouldn’t really go away. I was really close to her and you know, she doesn’t leave me, but that doesn’t stop you missing somebody. It’s a weird acceptance but also hell.
My twin brother is in a residential home which has had people with Covid in so that’s been a concern, but I’ve been phoning and face timing him and he’s fine with being shut in because he is on a bed a lot of the time. It’s kind of normal for him. He has the staff and he has some connection. It is terrible, I’m not saying it’s great, but what I am saying is that in terms of my brother, he doesn’t come out of his room much, he watches TV so it’s been a different experience for him because we cannot visit.
They had the problem like a lot of people, where they couldn’t get PPE, and so thats the other thing about Grandmaster Pea as well, I gave some of the videos to a comedy night to help raise money for actors who needed food. That was good, I felt like I was doing things for other people, at a time when I felt like I couldn’t do anything or help. As a
disabled person, you don’t actually get the opportunity to give back to people. This was a time when I could do that.
I also gave money to the NHS in Mums memory, because she was a midwife, and quite complicatedly she was a midwife, and we were born on the ward she ran. She had brought many babies into the world and saved them from the fate that me and Christopher were not saved from. She always blamed herself I think. We had conversations about it, I think she wanted to be working and giving birth at the same time. I think she felt guilty, which she shouldn’t have done, but I think that she did, bless her. Unfortunately the NHS let her down a number of times. So, that was difficult because everyone was clapping and I was angry and annoyed, but I still gave money to them.
When she died she wasn’t treated well, they made what was a very difficult situation worse. They said under no circumstances can you move this woman as she won’t be able to walk, and that’s what they did. It’s really difficult to process that kind of brutality. I mean this is a woman who gave years of her life caring for people. She learnt Arabic in the early 70s and felt that people should be understood. That was the incredible thing about her. What killed me, was she was that compassionate and helped people and that’s how the
NHS sort of thanked her for it. So I have a really weird relationship with them. I mean when the thing with PPE happened I gave money to that immediately. A big chunk of money, not that I’m a millionaire but I felt it was important. The idea that people were risking their lives to save other people, it’s an amazing thing that people wanted to do that, and that they were brave enough to do it. The idea that they were not being given the support was just disgusting”
To keep up with the story, or take part please visit lockedinlight.com or re-post your own using the signedtimes hashtag. Extend perceptions, deepen resonances, reinforce connections. Jo’s has a background in Visual Anthropology, oral history and photojournalism.
If you have work which highlights the social injustices that are being intensified or laid bare by Covid-19 please submit your work to the Photojournalism Hub. We will be adding a dossier page on a monthly basis. Submit by October 30th to be included in the next dossier.
Cinzia D’Ambrosi, founder/director of the Photojournalism Hub is in conversation with Asha Mukanda, activist, writer and executive assistant of the Open Institute in Kenya. The conversation surrounds the impact that the current pandemic is having on the existing issue of health disparities and police brutality in Kenya. https://studio.youtube.com/video/Q8zt–YMiUc/edit
INJUSTICES AND INEQUALITIES TALK WITH SABRINA MEROLLA
An inspiring and insightful conversation with Sabrina who is a photojournalist creating work about her own invisible health conditions. Not only to cope with them herself but in order to help others, and highlight the way CV-19 has effected many like her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-_ua9Yi57E
INJUSTICES AND INEQUALITIES TALK WITH ERICA DEZONNE