Over the last couple of years, refugees at JRS UK have been sharing their experiences of life as an asylum seeker in the UK through the medium of photography. Muler, who was a participant on the first course, then a volunteer on the second, is now helping to lead the sessions. He shares his experience of what taking photographs has meant to him and describes the participants’ experience of the taster workshop.
People think it’s just taking a picture but it’s not that. That’s what I used to think, but since I started taking pictures, I have seen many ways to express myself. Your mind is working, it is busy. You forget what is going on around you, your mind is there, it’s on the subject. Photography is a very powerful tool to distract you for that time from the worst things you are thinking about, like flashbacks or your past. At the same time, you express your past, your present, your future… in the clarity of your mind, it gives you power really, that is my experience.Without you knowing what you are doing, you are getting out some vision, it’s quite interesting.
The taster workshop was what we did was to connect people with each other and to give them confidence and trust with another, as well as to relax them and familiarising with the trainers. Personally, I shared my experience from the past workshop, I talked about the positive things as I did not have anything negative to say! I told how photography is helping me to cope with depression and frustration. I tried to encourage them to take the chance not to miss this opportunity, so one day they might realise how I had been in the past project. Most of them knew people from this place, from JRS, so hearing me say it gave them more power to be involved.
We answered questions from them about the course. The platform was open for them to express themselves about how the workshop would be, how they can take a picture, use the camera, techniques, and say what kind of pictures they wanted to take. At the same time we agreed not judge each other and how to encourage each other, to be like a family working together. We introduced each other with our names and showed that there are no boundaries between us in terms of ethnicity or religion, no difference between each other.
We showed images from the last course and discussed the type of images, portraits, landscapes, abstracts and took questions from them about how to approach people, buildings… we went outside into the garden to give freedom to them to engage with the camera. Without zooming, they learnt how to take a close up, so they could take a picture for themselves, manually to show the difference. We looked at the printed pictures and discussed them, it encouraged them to take part and gave them confidence.
I saw that they had freedom and confidence even in that short time, they were excited and happy. They will see if they take it seriously, they will empower themselves to go out and do more, to see that the images they create have value and they have power.After the taster, we will start the workshops over 6 sessions. After those sessions, they will decide which pictures they have taken they want to put into a calendar for JRS UK.
We are training 3 new refugee volunteers to help host the activities and the main course will begin at the end of May. Look out for news on our blog, facebook and twitter throughout June and new images in July.