Write a reflection in your learning log about some of the ways in which marginalised or under-represented people or groups could be badly or unhelpfully portrayed. How might being an insider help combat this?
In my earlier studies, I went to take pictures of the Aldershot Nepalese community I was made painfully aware of the problems faced by a minority like the Nepalese. The temperature of the local community is at best racist and at worst completely toxic. There are so many urban legends and false truths told about this community that it would be very easily perpetuated by a clumsy project.
There are many rumblings on social media and in the streets where people simply complain that they can’t get a doctor’s appointment because the surgery is full of Nepalese or the job centre is teaming with immigrants, or that they are all flocking to the benefit office to sponge off us. The white noise is chronic it seems to pervade everything and every walk of life. A thoughtless project could easily add to fire the flames of hatred and bigotry.
When I shot the images of the Nepalese in Aldershot, I had something of an eye-opening experience that sent me home feeling very light and happy, this awful immigrant scourge consisted of some beautiful people who were so very friendly. When I first approached Baal, he was very distrustful and asked lots of questions about what I was doing and why I wanted to take their pictures he was fearful of another smear campaign.
I showed him my OCA card and explained what I was doing and why, his whole attitude changed, he introduced me to people and really opened the door for me to take pictures he explained their problems to me and told me some of their history. I went from being a dangerous outsider to a friend and something of an insider, this process allowed me to take some nice images of the community. I had little old ladies begging me to photograph them and we were all laughing and having a joke by the end even though most of them spoke no English.
This experience taught me that the hate propaganda is all based on lies and half-truths and on a complete misunderstanding of the facts, getting a doctor’s appointment has always been difficult and the real reason it is worse is not because of an influx of Nepalese but because there is a significant lack of investment in the NHS and the practices are forced to act more like a business concern than a doctor’s surgery. As a young child I remember turning up to the doctors with my Mum and sitting on the window sill because the seats were all full and waiting hours for an appointment. The truth behind the lack of appointments is actually organisation in the 70’s you turned up and waited, now you have to book a slot and they do not squeeze people in they manage their time effectively. The truth is there are far fewer people waiting now because they turn up for a specific time, the downside is they have limited slots, in the old days when the surgery was completely full and it was past a certain time they would turn you away.
There is always a danger of making work without knowledge as we are at risk of perpetuation misconceptions and half-truths and in turn harming a community, whereas by doing the research and engaging with our subjects we can create a more balanced and life like portfolio.