On Monday 13th of May, the wonderful Ingrid of Fotosynthesis, a participatory photography and community engagement company, transformed the Romero Room at the JRS Day Centre into a professional Dark Room. None of our refugee friends knew quite what to expect from the Pinhole Camera Workshop. ‘How can you make camera out of a cardboard box?’ I was asked incredulously. Our refugee friends who arrived on a sunny Monday afternoon were to find out!
Ingrid, along with some volunteers (one of whom is an old friend of JRS), taught the workshop participants how to transform a cardboard box into a camera using only a pair of scissors, some black gaffer tape and a piece of foil.
‘To make the perfect camera, you need two pairs of hands in order to ensure that the camera is sealed against light’ said David, one of the workshop participants. Working together to make the cameras as ‘light-proof’ as possible, the group began to share techniques and help each other with the more difficult parts.
With their hand-made cameras at the ready, our friends ventured out into Wapping to find inspiration for the first photo. Returning full of anticipation, they disappeared into the Dark Room to develop their photographs. Some were a little disappointed, as their photos hadn’t turned out as they had hoped but most of our friends emerged from the Dark Room amazed by how simple photography could be. The pinhole cameras can be used multiple times, so for those whose photos didn’t work the first time, there was an opportunity to try again.
Combining practical and theoretical learning with creative expression, this workshop seemed to inspire the participants a great deal. ‘FANTASTIC!’ said one of our friends at the end of the day. There was a lot of talk of expanding on photography skills with requests from all the participants to arrange a follow-up workshop and ideas of creating a JRS Dark Room Project.
It was a pleasure to see the joy and excitement of our friends at the end of the workshop and to hear from Ingrid and the volunteers about how fabulous and focused the group had been. There is so much creative talent at JRS! While we can’t promise we’ll be able to create a permanent Dark Room, it’s a definite ‘watch this space’ to see what other creative projects come from our talented refugee friends!
The pinhole photography project is one of a number of activities we run to support destitute refugees and people seeking asylum to learn and develop new skills, to build their confidence, and an opportunity to offer peer support to one-another. We’re always looking for different activities we can offer our refugee friends – if you have an idea you think could work, please do get in touch!