Rebecca photographing at Limerigg, December 2012
I have been working weekly with HYPE (Helping Young People Engage) which assists young people transitioning from school to work/further education through skills training to move on to positive destinations. What began as a ten week course in partnership with West Lothian Heritage Services to collect oral histories and photography of people’s working lives in West Lothian developed in to an additional ten sessions to assist the young people in developing their portfolios to study photography at West Lothian College.
Over the course of these two projects a number of young people attended and there was always a good atmosphere of friendship, humour and a willingness to engage and learn. I set up a Facebook group where their photography, worksheets and tutorials were posted to assist them in their learning and latterly I used the ‘chat’ function to speak to them about their interviews.
Two of the participants applied to study photography NC at West Lothian College. They worked hard in editing their photographs and I had them work together to achieve this knowing that they would be asked to discuss their work in interview. We arranged a meeting with Zoe who was one of last year’s HYPE participants and is at the College studying photography and who has just been accepted on the HNC Photography course. She spoke to them about the college and the tutors and what to expect in their interviews.
I dragged them up to Perth Museum and Art Gallery to speak to educators about the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, they photographed an event on behalf of SCHUH and West Lothian Schools and met with professional photographers, they were dragged around galleries and I had them trudge through abandoned frozen industrial landscapes and up hills taking pictures.
Rebecca and Kayla have both been accepted to study for their NC in photography at West Lothian College. They will further develop their skills in photography with their peers in an open, vibrant and inspiring learning environment and, just like Zoe the year before make new friends and thrive.
So, how do we measure the success of this project? There are a several perspectives;
Let’s start with an example from one of the participants, Kayla. She gave me a card which pretty much says it all. I can see how far she has come in her photography but more importantly her desire to learn, her confidence and outlook on life.
The senior youth worker who ran the project (Heather Thomson) and senior staff in the education department at West Lothian Council have achieved positive outcomes. We attended an event recently with Angela Constance, Scottish Minister for Youth Employment and Kayla and Rebecca spoke to her about their plans for their futures. They were also cheered by others present at the event when told they had been accepted to college. I would also like to take this chance to thank Heather for allowing me a free hand to develop this project with her and I hope to further develop and build partnerships with Heather and her dedicated team in the near future
Kayla and Rebecca meeting the Angela Constance the Scottish Government Minister for Youth Employment
From my personal perspective it was a joy to have the freedom to work in an inspiring environment, to bring together aspects of my working life (namely photography and collaborative practice) and share my knowledge. There is something so satisfying about helping people realise their creative and personal goals and not all of my projects are this rewarding…