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  • Info OFS

Just Going For It

As the Crisis photography tutor, the project started with Rory [Lead Artist] coming into my class

on a Thursday. He was only supposed to come into one class to meet me and meet the members

and he actually started coming in every week, and coming out and about with us and, you know,

between us we worked really well together. Quite quickly I saw him build a rapport with the

members and realised that he was really down to earth and they responded to him really well. He

gave us loads of time in the first term, before we’d even started ICON.


Once we were on site, basically, I was there as a support to the members, really. Just making

sure that their needs were met and that they felt comfortable doing what they were doing. So I

said that I was there in a supportive role, but I felt like members were really supportive to other

members as well. The project broke down a lot of barriers, you know with everyone’s different

roles, really. Some people were more confident than others in their roles, you know, and I think

that everyone just kind of pitched in - all of us just supported each other.


Everyone in it, they say it was a collaboration - and it really was. Everybody got stuck in with

everything, you know. It was all hands-on deck, we had to do a bit of makeup, a bit of lighting,

everyone did a little bit of everything, it felt really inclusive.


There was a breakdown of hierarchy - but then I think when I first met Rory I kind of felt that

already, that actually he wasn’t going to be too overbearing and bossy, that he did take everyone’s

views on board and tried to listen to everybody. That it was much more inclusive and we all felt

that we had a significant input into each picture.


I know that in my art class - as soon as I say we’re doing portraits, people shudder and they don’t

want to be in front of the camera. But actually, everyone (bar one person, who took the behind-

the-scenes photos) managed to be in a photo, everyone pushed on through. They swapped

gender roles, you know, put on prickly dresses that they didn’t want to put on and faced bright

lights that they didn’t want to face or got in tanks that were really difficult to get into and they

were scared of heights and went up in a cherry-picker – everyone actually pushed on through their

fears.


And actually, I hate – I HATE – being in front of the camera. So I could understand the members’

fears about being in front. We were all nervous, we were all put in the same situation at different

times, you know, whether that was behind the camera or in front of the camera. We all swapped

roles, we all kind of felt each other’s fears around it and insecurities and paranoia and so that was

going out of my comfort zone as well.


I didn’t sleep, every night before a shoot, every single night, worried that nobody is going to turn

up or that something’s going to happen to somebody on shoot; you never know what’s going

to happen, it’s that anticipation, the anxiety before a shoot, I think that will always be there. And

having worries about what the picture’s going to look like – you know with the Miner’s Supper, the

Bill Brandt one? We shot that in the art room in Crisis. You know, we literally put the wallpaper up

with double-sided sticky tape and shoved an art table and just had a few props and threw some

clothes everywhere – I didn’t see how it was going to work. And that was the most transformative,

I think that when you looked at that on the screen you were like, ‘wow, we are in the same room

that that photo was actually taken in’. That one is actually my favourite. I think it’s beautiful, it’s

exquisite. It looks better than the original.


So yeah, I’ll take away the fact that you can make something happen even if you’re not that

confident that it’s going to work. You’ve got to try it anyway and see what it’s going to look like,

really. I think it’s normal to have fears. It’s normal. Well, I guess it’s just going for it, really.


And being in the Bullingdon Club photo - I think I gained a bit of confidence by then actually.

I stood there quite proud and I was proud of everyone and everyone looked great suited and

booted and, yeah so actually that one, I think that we’d all kind of found our feet by then. I think

it shows in the picture, we all are stood there quite arrogant, quite proud, you know we’re quite

confident in that picture.


The hardest part of the project was the opening night when we did the Q&A and we all had

to stand up in front of an audience and talk through a microphone and you know, get thrown

questions from the audience. And, really, I felt like a fish out of water there. But again, once I’d

done it I was absolutely buzzing. And I have to say that I’ve got a bit of confidence from it.


And professionally, you know, knowing that I can work with another professional, knowing that

I can work within other teams and with the OFS, kind of bridging Crisis and the arts, you know,

that’s really good experience. I mean, I’ve never worked with OFS before. But we had loads of

meetings beforehand so that I got to meet Megan [Project Manager] and Sarah [Visual Arts

Programme Manager] and some of the other people from the arts. Just to clarify who’s doing what

in what role and how that’s going to work. So I felt quite comfortable working with them. That was

great, and a good experience. Yeah, it felt great. And fun. And I’ve formed good relationships with

Megan and Sarah, and you know this is going to continue as well because we’re doing other work

together.


And in my photography class as well I think I’ve learned some new skills from Rory and the team

about what to do in my class with members now. I think, you know, we will revisit doing portraits

and I think that we can all do it a little bit more confidently and support other people, new people

to the class, to actually push on through and do it.


I’m excited to see the exhibition tour. I’m excited for it to go to Bristol. My stepson didn’t get a

chance to come and see it in Oxford, but he’s in Bristol a lot so I’ve already arranged to show

him around. He’s gone through the book with me and I’ve shown him all the behind-the-scenes

pictures already, you know.


I feel really proud. When I show my friends and family, I always say, ‘this is a project that I’ve got

involved in’. And actually, this seems bigger than any other project I’ve done, and I was more

proud of this and I was more involved in this - and felt I had more input in this. This is, yeah,

probably the coolest thing I’ve done.

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