Telling Stories with Words AND Pictures
My photographic background lays specifically in environmental portrait and social documentary photography. So being commissioned by the Suffolk Community foundation to photograph a selection of various charities, support and service groups around the beautiful county was a pleasure to be involved with. The foundation’s purposes are to facilitate these multiple groups with grants and funds, helping them to continue their vital work supporting local communities, groups and individuals. From disabled groups, homeless shelters, meals-on-wheels services, even a Lido swimming pool. I was genuinely amazed at the breadth and scope of the foundations reach, and it opened my eyes to something that I wasn’t too aware of in Suffolk.
There’s a massive misconception that Suffolk is a rural idyll, dotted with large horses, sweeping countryside, lovely beaches, and beautiful country pubs, while also being the home to three of England’s finest painters, Sir Alfred Munnings, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable which it indeed was. But the other side of the county has a host of similarities to many other towns and cities in the UK. Part of the commission was to visit the town of Lowestoft which until only a few years ago had a large thriving local fishing and fish processing industry, but has since fallen on hard times as a result of losing this vital economic income. With Shell Oils southern operational base also being close down some ten years ago, Kirkley in Lowestoft has become one of the most deprived wards in the county as well ranking 173rd most deprived in England.
Lowestoft has attracted European Union redevelopment funding focusing its aims on developing the energy sector such as offshore wind farms and other renewable energy initiatives like tidal energy generators and wave power systems. One of the centres I was asked to visit was the Access community trust in the heart of Lowestoft, one of the few services which offer resettlement programmes providing an interim move-on facility for residents. Acting as a ‘stepping stone’ between supported accommodation and individuals returning to independent living. It was heartening to see how involved the staff were when engaging and encouraging the residents, helping them move on to a more decisive role in the community and in their lives generally. The self-contained flats provide a safe environment where individuals can live semi-independently, alongside the added benefit of support staff who are on hand to help out when needed. I met so many great people there, both volunteer workers and short-term residents, all pulling together sharing and giving advice, guidance, and ultimately swapping a joke or three.
My photographs helped to promote and highlight the shelter and the foundation's valuable work within this initiative. By telling the resident's individual stories, my pictures help to put a human face to each of these narratives. We really do react to other peoples stories, it enables the viewer, reader, to better connect with each particular individual's account. We often think communication is achieved just through words, but communicating visually is a natural aspect of life, some say stronger than words as our lives are lived visually. We learn at a young age how to interpret actions, emotions, ideas, and feelings, Through words and pictures, our comprehension is enhanced because we’re seeing the effect that we’re reading in words. If you fail to use the power of good visuals to deliver your organisation's stories, either through video or good photography, you're failing to engage thoroughly with your audiences and ultimately failing to provide your own fundamental important story.
These are a few images from my stay at the Bridge Access community centre in Lowestoft
John Ferguson Photography
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