DigiCommissions Community Engagement In Response to Plain Our Bed The Stars Our Blanket

Photography at the Booth Centre

In February we began our DigiCommissions Engagement Project responding to Dave Griffiths’ artwork The Plain Our Bed The Stars Our Blanket. The new work was commissioned by Full Circle Arts as part of a project supported by MIRIAD.

For our engagement project, David Oates (www.davidoates.net) worked with a group from the Booth Centre (www.boothcentre.org.uk) over the course of 6 weeks, using the artwork as a starting point for individual photography projects.

In week 1 Dave Griffiths talked to the group about his trip to Kangbashi and the artwork that came out of this. The Plain Our Bed, The Stars Our Blanket is a digital collage of photographs taken in Kangbashi New Area that the viewer can zoom into to find details. (http://digicommissions.fullcirclearts.co.uk/artwork/the-plain-our-bed-the-stars-our-blanket/) By utilising technology Dave has made an artwork that you can have many different views of, both micro and macro. It’s a collection of images to roam around and explore. Hearing Dave speak, myself and the group gained a much deeper understanding of the context of the work and the motivations for putting it together as a navigable map. To set the scene for our photography project, Dave and the group began to draw parallels between Kangbashi and Manchester. The differing housing crises’, the need for affordable housing, the growing gap between rich and poor, the government drive in Kangbashi to move from country life to urban life that happened in Manchester 150 years ago.

Responding to the discussion, photographer David Oates set the group a task of trying to photograph a story. In the first week David asked the group to simply pick something they are interested in and take lots and lots of photographs to tell it’s story. Hundreds if necessary! The group were then tasked with editing their images down to the best 12. In the following weeks we sat down as a group with each person’s series of photographs laid out on the desk, going round we discussed what had worked well and what could be built on in the next week. From the very beginning we could see interesting approaches and outlooks; some people photographed commuters and shoppers bustling around the city, some people focussed in on otherwise ignored details, some looked at the contrast between new and old architecture.

It was really interesting to see each participant’s work progress over the 6 week. Adam started the project with a bang and took really fantastic photographs of the city. One particular photograph (OPEN) served as a vignette of Manchester at night, giving a narrated glimpse into a detail of the city. Geoff had an obvious eye for texture and colour, capturing details in the architecture around the Booth Centre as well as an amazing shot of Manchester Central Library reflected in a puddle – quintessentially Mancunian! Joan and Margaret captured portraits of their loved ones. Kelly documented her journey through the city centre. James decided to find hidden details in the city landscape; firstly by photographing a series of found white objects and then by spotting and documenting unintentional letters hidden in pavements, tiles and buildings.

images looking through a cafe window at night. the open sign is lit up in neon colours

Photo: Taken by Adam at the Booth Centre – email xxxadamjpg@gmail.com for further info. (Copyright Adam)

Everyone who took part not only captured some great shots but also contributed to the discussions of each week’s new photographs. David Oates, who tutors at Salford University, said how exciting it was coming in each week to see the new work and to clearly see how each participant had listened and taken his advice from the week before. By being so receptive and approaching the project openly, each participant was able to create a body of photographs that tells a story, shows their style and shows all the skills they’ve learnt.

a photo looking up to the sky showing lamp posts and an airplane going by

Photo: Taken by Adam at the Booth Centre – email xxxadamjpg@gmail.com for further info. (Copyright Adam)

A photo showing a busy city centre through the reflection of a window

Photo: Taken by Ollie at the Booth Centre. (Copyright Ollie)

All of the group’s photographs will be exhibited at the Booth Centre as part of their 20th Anniversary celebrations. If you’d like to donate to the Booth Centre visit their giving page: http://www.boothcentre.org.uk/were-turning-20.html