Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • ******************** Parental guidance note: the following story contains some swear words.*****************

    This tale (overlong sorry) is perhaps an interesting example of how ‘creating art’ might change people's lives.

    I was working with some young people (under 16) ‘in care’ of the Social Work Dept. Idea was to undertake a small photo project exploring their neighbourhood and getting a fresh perspective on the familiar.

    Boy did we get a fresh perspective!

    I decided an excellent subject was the large medical supplies factory that sits adjacent to, and is clearly visible from, a local park near the group house the youngsters live in, so two young lads and I duly wandered through the park, with the aspirant photogs keenly snapping the delights on offer.

    There’s some great juxtapositions of signs with walking people on, with real people walking under them (medical facility staff), and all this with a backdrop of a great modern aluminium sheeted structure with various geometric patterns. Anyway we did the length of the perimeter fence and as we got near the factory entrance, but still well within the public park, my two lads ‘authority radar’ went on high alert as they spotted a Security Guard (SG) striding purposefully and somewhat angrily towards us..............

    What followed:

    Youths “Look Security, lets fuckin run”
    Me “No, Stay put, stay quiet and listen. Trust me”

    SG “What do you think you lot are doing?” (loudly)
    Me “We’re minding our own business, and I’d respectfully suggest you should do the same” (quietly)
    SG “What! What are you doing I said”
    Me “I told you its none of your business”
    SG “You’re photographing this building”
    Me “And the problem is?”
    SG “People have complained”
    Me “How can they complain about the pictures if they’ve not seen them?”
    SG “They’ve complained you’re taking pictures”
    Me “I dont understand what the problem is, can you explain please?”
    SG “Why are you taking pictures?”
    Me “Because we’re photographers”
    SG “My manager has complained and asked me to come and see what you’re doing”
    Me “Go back inside and tell your manager to come out and I’ll happily tell him exactly what I’ve just told you, to go away, and leave us alone”
    SG ” What! WHAT are you doing? I could call the Police”
    Me “Ok that would be excellent – it would save me calling them. Let me put this simply for you. At the moment the only person who is actually breaking the law here is you. We’re in a public park, and I have two minors with me and we are being verbally assaulted and obstructed by a stranger as we go about our lawful business, so if you dont stop it immediately I’m going to call the police and have them arrest you. Ok?”
    SG ” Eh! WHAT!! (loooong pause as he thinks about it) ……Er um er, oh! So how long are you going to be?”
    Me “Its none of your business and I’ll say it again, I’m quite happy to call the police and then you can explain to your manager why you’re not on sentry duty where you should be, but at the police station being charged with creating a disturbance and assaulting members of the public.”
    SG – (leaning towards me with a conciliatory if somewhat sickly smile) “Ahh good answer! Er….um…I’m only doing as I’m told. You just carry on”"
    Me “Dont worry, we will. Oh and might I respectfully suggest you find out exactly what your legal rights are, and inform your manager of them too, so he knows not to send any more of his staff out into public areas to create a disturbance by verbally assaulting the public.”

    And off he walks. Meanwhile the two young lads could barely contain their glee and wound themselves up to deliver a range of gestures involving middle fingers, v’s and fists in the crook of bent elbows, and I could clearly see the word “wanker” forming in my lads mouths, which I had to sharply stifle.

    Me “Decorum lads, lets have some restraint and dignity! Giving him the finger and a mouthful is really not necessary. We won.”
    Lads “What the fuck happened there!”
    Me “Rights boys, simply rights”:
    Lads “eh?”
    Me “Basically we have rights, all sorts of rights, and today we are exercising our legal right to freely walk about in a public park and take pictures. He had no right to stop us, and we had the law on our side to uphold our right to be here doing our thing, enough to make him have to back down and leave us alone. Simple”
    Lads “Whoo hoo. Thats fucking magic! What other rights have we got?”

    And there followed an interesting discussion on a range of rights-related topics which they soaked up eagerly.

    Which included the interesting fact (which the lads found utterly delightful) that had the Police been called we’d have had an even more ‘interesting’ situation. Because this activity was not in any way illegal, and I was with two youths in SW care, and subject to the Social Work Act, plus various bits of related legislation regarding privacy, I was not legally allowed to say exactly who they were/what we were doing. Had I done so I would be identifying the youths as being ‘in care’ and this would be a breach of their right to confidentiality. As I understand the legislation, in a situation of such ‘legal activity’ the youth’s right to confidentiality overrules the Police’s right to demand that the individuals identify themselves. I could be wrong, because in situations like this where aspects of differing legislation overlap there are many grey areas, but I assumed the presumption of anonymity would prevail, and I’d have been prepared to defend that stance vigorously. The lads were, to quote them, “gobsmacked” at all of this.

    I think it would be fair to say that four people had their lives changed that day. Hopefully the memory of this little episode will serve these young folks well in future.

    But crucially, what this event also did was break down some barriers between the young people and me (an old fart, representative of ‘authority’), and enabled some much deeper discussion about being ‘in care’ and what that meant, to them, the people who knew them, and about their aspirations, hopes and fears for their futures. We talked a fair bit, but I asked them to try to represent some of these emotions in images, in any way they wanted.

    One sensitive young lad, fond of a bit of eyeshadow admitted to liking to write, so I suggested we could use the huge depth-of-field of a compact camera to juxtapose some of his words with….something, anything so long as it represented his ‘here and now’.

    He chose the pyramidal roof of their group home for one shot, a nearby tree for another because he “liked nature and how it was free”.

    Anyway, these are a few of the images they took, their personal representations of being ‘in care’ (in both young lad’s case through no fault of theirs, but as a consequence of parental failure) and fighting to find some ways to express themselves.

    Photography - you press that button and start a chain of events, and never quite know where they’ll take you.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.