PRIME collective have begun the project ‘Wish You Were Here’ in East Belfast. We will hold our third session this coming Wednesday (when we take the group out on an evening photography adventure together with Mervyn). This is a blog post about out first session which includes some general notes:
On Wednesday the 3rd of October the members of PRIME met with the Wish You Were Here workshop participants for the first time during an introduction session, held upstairs at the Templemore Avenue Swimming Pool between 6pm and 8pm.
After a meet and greet and some tea (and cake/biscuits), we all gathered around, introduced ourselves and why we wanted to participate in the project. Reasons were varied: to learn new photography skills, to learn about the area, out of curiosity, to meet some new people and to exchange ideas.
We (PRIME) explained that we will be working on the project as part of the group, and that we were keen to learn. An emphasis was put on the experimental nature of the project, that seeks not just to take photographs but to examine how to represent a subject to the outside world; what makes an interesting image; and what is worth exploring, debating and ultimately representing in East Belfast.
We had also brought books and prepared a slideshow of images sourced from Belfast Exposed’s recent exhibition and publications, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography that demonstrated different ways in which a whole range of photographers such as Patrick McCoy, Hannah Starkey, Kai Olaf Hesse, John Duncan, Paul Quinn, Ursula Burke and Daniel Jewesbury have chosen to represent the city.
Photographs about the city do not always have to represent a particular landscape or familiar landmark. They can be portraits of people who are familiar, or maybe not, or of a place of personal or historical significance. They can seem ordinary, even mundane, and may be staged or taken in a serendipitous moment of chance.
We proceeded with an exercise: we drew a map of the world from memory. This seemingly simple exercise is harder than expected, and began a discussion about place. About countries and cities visited, and therefore familiar, or faraway places known only by name. The representations differed wildly, though we were all drawing the same thing.
We then drew a map of East Belfast, based on what we were familiar with in the area. The variety of different ways of negotiating the city became apparent from our maps. One was of playgrounds and parks – places that were suitable for young children.
Another had an imaginary street with the drawer’s favourite buildings and shops. Important places and spaces were included, and everyone’s perspective was slightly different. This exercise triggered a discussion between the group, focusing on the area. On the many bakeries and what you can buy where. Of the vacant shops with stickers on the windows portraying fantasy businesses.
One participant spoke of the network of alleys through which you can walk to town without hardly ever walking along a major road. It was fascinating to exchange information with people of various ages and backgrounds from the area, and we asked the group to start thinking about some of the places they may wish to photograph over the period of the workshops.