Small victories

… this is the second part of Laura’s story.

As the Neighbourhood Challenge rolled on, Laura set up a Facebook page and the group worked on an exhibition, ‘Faces of Our Time’ that was shown as part of the final presentation event. Some of the reaction to the exhibition, Laura was not expecting.

“There were a couple of ‘faces’ in the exhibition that belonged to, can I say, ‘troublesome characters’. Some people thought they should not have been included and one woman went as far as suggesting you had to have earned the right to be photographed, you know, be some sort of community champion. It caused quite a bit of controversy locally.”

I tell Laura about a show that was staged in Salford some years ago by photographer, Chris Harrison. “He photographed young men who were not that popular in their community and, with studio lighting and backdrops, made them look majestic almost. The exhibition was commissioned and staged by a council-run gallery, so you can imagine the uproar.” Personally, I think a little controversy is not a bad thing in photography as long as it makes you think and is not about creating headlines.

“We put the exhibition up but the project wasn’t one of the winners,” she says. “That takes the wind out of your sails a little bit.”

I talk to Laura about the idea of winners and losers, that some perfectly plausible projects would have taken a real knock because, effectively, they have been dubbed as ‘losers’.
“To me that doesn’t sound like a positive conclusion,” I say.

“You have to go away and lick your wounds.”

“But you shouldn’t even have to do that.”

“You only feel like that for a moment, but if you’re convinced it’s a good idea and you realise just how much you’ve gained from it then you think, hang on, I’m not going to give up.”

“What have you gained from it, do you think?”

“Confidence,” says Laura, “which is a massive thing.”

Had Photo Links won one of the £3,500 prizes, Laura would have set up a media suite at The Edge, a social enterprise where she and others could develop their work. “We could have created something in our own little corner of Devon, making a living with commercial work and then doing whatever we wanted to do creatively as artists. I’ll just have to find the funding from somewhere else.”

Some time after the competition had finished, Laura saw the twenty-something young man on the steps of The Edge.

“He asked if he could get involved in the group,” she says. “And I had to tell him that the competition was over. I’ve promised I will get a camera and go out for a day, taking pictures. I do know he’s since connected with Mark’s employment skills project so that’s been a small victory.”

The whole time Laura and I have been talking her nine-month old daughter, Sophia Malaika (it means angel) has been asleep in her buggy, oblivious to the clatter of the kitchen and the hubbub of the café. As if on cue, she wakes up as our conversation is coming to an end. This week Laura is going to ‘shadow’ me on some of my appointments so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to talk later.

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