A photographic essay representing the lives of refugees in a small market town in England.
STATUS: Photography completed. Exhibition at Stamford Arts Centre 18th October 2022
Whilst working for a press organisation I was privileged to photograph a number of Ukrainian families who had fled their home country following the invasion by Russia.
I was immediately struck by their overwhelming strength and dignity – but was not convinced this was being fully articulated in the press which seemed to concentrate Nationally on statistics and images from Ukraine itself.
Having spoken with a number of host families, and then again with a number of refugees themselves, it became clear that there are two sides to the story that need to be told. On the one hand is the public face of the families going about daily lives in a small market town and surrounding villages and finding peace as best they can – and yet the chaos they have left behind never really leaves them.
After further talks and taking advice from the ever helpful Stamford Diversity Group the details of the project evolved over time resulting in six families being photographed, each in two different settings – one being the “moment of peace” that they find locally – the other being the “moment of reflection” as they reflect on the lives they have left behind.
I should like to thank the families who placed their trust in me to accurately and fairly represent them – and I hope that the exhibition can help in some small way help the local community to gain a better understanding of the lives of our strong, dignified and proud visitors from Ukraine.
Credit also to Stamford Fairtrade, Rutland Climate Action, and everyone else who has either helped with guidance during the project or been part of the “One World Week Exhibition” in Stamford which has this year had the theme of refugees.
After spending several years in my other role working with partners in the voluntary, NGOs and local authority sectors it has been increasingly suggested that rural poverty both absolute and relative are under- reported in the media.
In some ways this is an understandable result of authorities’ natural tendency to promote their own location as being “ideal for families to live, work and play” and for the the PR machine to perhaps not want to openly challenge perceptions or talk about those who are less fortunate. That is not to criticise anything that has been done or said, it is merely a reflection of my experience in the sector.
The project brief:
Broadening knowledge from the traditional emphasis on urban deprivation -increasing awareness and understanding of the issue of rural poverty – with its causes and impacts
To promote the increased awareness and understanding of both the causes and impact of poverty within a rural setting
“Rural” will have a broad definition to include situations from isolated homes to small towns and villages but will be restricted to the UK and will have an emphasis on sustainability by utilising public transport where possible.
The project will specifically aim to represent the causes and impact of rural poverty (rather than being a simplistic reflection of deprivation), formatted to present to NGOs.
The initial scoping, research and liaison with NGOs is due to commence in early December 2022, after the current Moments of Peace Exhibition has finished its second run of display.
The anticipated timescale is 11 months.
Funding is currently being actively sought, on the basis of 50/50 match funding for the technology costs, and my time being pro bono.
Following a successful exhibition at Stamford Arts Centre in October, Alan’s project “Moments of Peace” will now also be exhibited at the Allman Gallery, Victoria Hall, Oakham from the 28th November to the 13th December 2022
This exhibition repeats the theme of considering the lives of Ukrainian refugees in small market towns and villages in the East Midlands – in doing so to compare and contrast the public-facing strength and calm that so many show, with the harsh reality of the lives they have left behind – a reality that never truly leaves them.
The exhibition will feature images of six Ukrainian families who are being hosted locally.
I would again like to thank the families who have placed their trust in me for this photo essay, as well as Stamford Diversity Group who were instrumental in helping to bring this project to reality