This series has been a long time coming. In the end it was a close thing whether I asked for their participation, but these portraits come quite close to what I wanted to achieve. None of the photographs are named, they are all users – though not all the users who attended on this day agreed to be photographed, but all those who did were happy to agree to pose. I had two portraits in mind, the one above that I have chosen and another square on to the camera. I felt I needed to keep the image creation time short, the sensitivity of the process was apparent in my mind, though I am quite prepared to be told that I have overplayed that sensitivity, had these not been users of the Group, then I would have encroached on more of their time. This portrait had the subject looking out of a large window that provided soft light, even in summer this window has that property, so I had envisioned the space. I wanted them to be looking to the light, I wanted them to not be smiling, a couple of the subjects had difficulty in not smiling, and this was to do with them providing a contemplative pose in an attempt to equalise them, to bring them to a similar place before the lens – to not differentiate them as either clinically needy or otherwise. The alternate pose had too much variety in the poses and the sense of artificiality seemed to me to be too evident. The users all work on ‘art’ projects and this portrait session was slotted as and when they/we completed the final piece of the current project, a large communal print:
I have been working at the centre now for most of this year. I have had some ups and downs, but mostly ups. I usually have a sense of inspiration after attending these sessions, and whilst I have a strong feeling that I am benefitting significantly from working with this group, the various artists that attend – which is allowing me to build a new network – I am very mindful that I don’t want to appear to be using them. I hope I am now trusted within the group, that I contribute from more than just another pair of hands perspective, that I bring to the group something that benefits both parties and that this final print is a signifier of that spirit of the group; all the users, including me, contributed a piece to the print and we all worked on bringing the piece to a conclusion.
The final print is likely to be included in the exhibition of the project that I have documented to date, the exhibition will be a ‘Group’ show. I will make a lot of prints and perhaps a book and we will include work from the users (both prints, and text). The next few weeks will decide on whether the show will go ahead; the exhibition will probably take three months to put together and it might be a project for the group early next year, or a joint project between Helen and myself to be hosted at Fusion Arts, who appear to be positive about the idea.