'Telling Stories' exhibition, 2003

Telling Stories, 2003

Telling Stories marked the beginning of an ongoing relationship between Brighton Photo Biennial and the Learning Support Service at Brighton & Hove City Council.

November 2003

The partnership aimed to encourage the use of photography exhibitions and contemporary visual arts practice as a resource for teaching and learning in Art & Design across the curriculum.

Brighton-based photographers Polly Arnett and Tom Wichelow worked with two groups of primary pupils from The Alternative Centre for Education (Primary Phase) and the Primary Special Facility, Westdene School. Using a gallery visit to BPB 2003 exhibition The Inconsiderable Things (Peter Fraser and Rachel Harrison), the project introduced pupils to a range of different photographic processes that explored themes of identity and everyday life.

Pupils recorded images from their own environments with disposable cameras. These images were displayed alongside Peter Fraser’s photographs to help pupils compare and contrast their own work with Peter’s. Pupils then visited an artist’s studio where they worked with found objects, text, drawing and photography to develop images that could be used in their own portraits of everyday life. On the way home, the group had their own passport photos taken. In the classroom, pupils translated their ideas into large-scale compositions using drawing, collage, digital techniques and an overhead projector. Together they discussed positive and negative images and experimented with different techniques for creating negatives. Finally, after testing exposure times, the negatives were exposed using one of the earliest forms of photography to create giant cyanotype prints.

Tom used the gallery visit to encourage pupils to engage critically and honestly with contemporary practice, asking them to leave behind what they thought their responses should be and discuss openly their reactions to the work. Back at school, the group’s responses were used to generate discussion around the value of art, what artists do and how art can be used to help make sense of the world. Keeping this in mind, the group were given disposable cameras and asked to record some of the people, places and possessions in their lives. Together they looked at and talked about the resulting images, then went through an editing process, which included drawing and cutting up photos to create photo-montage self portraits.

The project provided opportunities for pupils to engage with professional artists and contemporary visual arts practice. It enabled pupils to develop new skills and understanding specific to Art and Design, and transferable skills such as literacy, confidence and communication.

This first project also informed the structure and content of future artist-led projects with Learning Support Services. The two residencies provided opportunities for sharing thoughts around good practice, exchanging ideas, expertise and experiences, and encouraging dialogue and reflection.

Funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation