I am always up for a challenge, being self-employed, you learn to say ‘yes’ more than you say ‘no’. So when I was approached by Birmingham University to take part in a very special project, the ‘yes’ had already slipped out, way before I knew the full details. However, the more I go to know, the more I was ready to do something a little different.
The commission itself was to portray the ‘unfiltered lives’ of recipients of a very special programme administered by the School of Social Sciences. The research focussed on the lives of black and minority businesses and provide support via peer-to-peer mentoring, which was overseen by Professor of Leadership and Enterprise, Kiran Trehan.
However, for me, the project represented a chance to get out of my ‘comfort zone’ and create images a little different to my normal day-today work. Whilst taking headshots etc. is not new to me, creating specific environmental portraits and showing the business owners in their places of work, provided it’s own new challenges.
The project allowed me to not only explore the inner workings of some of these businesses, but also to experience first-hand, some of the challenges and pressures faced by them. Whilst creating the images, I got to hear the stories of how the research had helped the individuals overcome not only the pressures of running a business, but the incredible strain that it had put on personal relationships. Ultimately, the peer-to-peer mentoring and the support of Prof. Trehan and her team, had helped them through some very difficult times.
As a self-employed individual, I was amazed to hear how similar some of the businesses struggles had been to my own whilst ‘growing’ - including confidence issues, fear of failure and the obvious financial concerns. However, I was somewhat surprised and concerned to hear how there had been additional pressures for those coming from a black and minority background, including the fears of acceptance. This only cemented how important Prof. Trehan’s research and support had been to these individuals and how the University itself was working towards shining a light on these difficulties.
The project culminated in an exhibition of the images being displayed at the University’s new ‘Green Heart’ - an beautiful thoroughfare used by students and visitors alike - a fitting place for these ‘unfiltered lives’ to be showcased.
You can learn more about the business and the research at the Birmingham University website.
Special Thanks to: