This work was commissioned by Bristol and Cardiff University Department of Social Sciences. The subject being co - production on the theme of isolation and loneliness within the North Merthyr area (interestingly there has apparently been very little academic research on co-production)
The poet - clare e. potter, and the writer Colum Sanson-Regan and myself were commissioned to be the front line of community engagement to assist and relay the communities input and issues, on these themes to the wider and immediate community. Community 'gate keepers' were identified, people who were already very active within the community, who have delivered community services, groups and facilities that already create community cohesion and support. Their narratives were recorded by Colum Sanson Regan, their portraits were were taken by myself.
Initially an eight week project, one day a week on location (although I did find myself putting in many more hours) I found myself looking at the external landscape of the immediate area, then moving into the internal urban landscape of the North Gurnos area, ending within the residential care home. All along talking to the people we encountered, whilst looking with that external eye, for photographic metaphors, narratives, issues of loneliness, isolation, community break down, or aspects to facilitate improvement.
The collective collected works will initially pop up in various community venues to draw further people into the year long project. There will then be a more complete exhibition in the Red House Gallery - Merthyr Tydfil; this is being curated, assembled, organised by Jemma Stacey.
You will note that my images are all black and white, until I reach what I deem as 'conversational portraits' with the care home residents.
During the eight weeks we were asked to write or thoughts as we went along, as part of the research. I ended up by writing as I often do, titles to my photographs as points of entry, when I read them back, it occurred to me that this would be a good accompaniment to some of my images, almost 'spoken word'. These are intended to give a key into the metaphors, observations recorded, to invite, initiate further discussions, to increase a greater input from the wider community, leaving room for their interpretation. You will find these leaders or 'spoken words' if you click the info button accompanying the images.
Thus far, what I personally have taken aboard, or have learnt from this project, is that works like these are loaded with 'ethics'. Isolation and loneliness are not easy issues to jump into. All works needed careful consideration, the contextualisation of conversations, photographs, poems, recordings, needed relaying back to the participants, to ensure that the participants would be happy to permise, grant publication of the works and their narratives.
Finally for now, one thing I feel as though I really need to say; everything within my co - productive works could be observed in many places, and not just the specific community of the North Merthyr.