7 people, 7 stories, 7 ages, 7 pictures, 7 Newcastles
7seven aimed to visually examine Newcastle through the eyes and experiences of seven people between the ages of seven and 77. The project built on Newcastle Museum’s permanent exhibition A Newcastle Story, highlighting the multiplicity of different stories that combine to tell the story of a city.
The project was part public program/ part exhibition. It involved local facilitator/ multi-media artist Conor Ashleigh working with seven selected volunteer Novocastrians between the ages of 7-77 over a two week period to create a visually compelling narrative of the world around them. Each participant produced their own unique body of work that combines to tell a contemporary story of Newcastle.
The project culminating in a photographic and multimedia exhibition on display at Newcastle Museum from 30 May to 30 September 2013. It can then be toured around other Museums in the Hunter and beyond.
The seven people included:
- Bryce Blackmore
- Heidi Whittaker
- Owen Hammond
- Sarah Jane Campbell
- Stephanie Owen
- Taliah Darcy Shaw
- Wallis Haviland
The exhibition process
The following information details the exhibition development process, from the very initial call out to the final exhibition.
The call out
The first phase of the project was to put a call out to interested community members, informing them about the project and inviting them to attend a one day workshop to learn more. It was important to promote the project broadly to ensure there was a good cross section of ages, interests and experiences to select participants from.
The Museum and project facilitator issued a call out via contacts throughout Newcastle, local media, social media, schools, café culture and the Museum network to reach a wide range of Novocastrians.
The call out culminated in 24 people registering for a one day workshop held at the Museum on Sunday 3 March 2013. The workshop, facilitated by Conor Ashleigh, was designed to provide an outline of the 7seven project, introduce participants to fundamentals of photographic story-telling and provide an opportunity for attendees to showcase their abilities.
Following the call out, seven participants were selected based on a combination of the quality and uniqueness of their proposed narrative concepts, their photographic eye as well as their age and gender.
Initial one day call out workshop
The call out workshop consisted of all 24 applicants participating in a daylong workshop held at Newcastle Museum. Participants had a chance to present a small selection of their best photographs, discuss their experience with photography and also suggest possible stories they may be interested in pursuing if successful. In addition to the individual presentations, I presented on the basics of photographic storytelling, ethics of documentary photography and also my own photography practice.
The 24 applicants also took part in a photo storytelling exercise. This was a chance to observe group work, individual personalities and also approaches to visual storytelling. Small groups of participants were asked to apply the key tenants of storytelling to a body of my work. These bodies of work ranged from life in Gaza after the war, birth of a new nation in South Sudan and also families attempting to live sustainably in rural Australia.
The day finished with a shared lunch, a group photography walk through Newcastle’s CBD and final time for individual questions from participants. As a result of this one day workshop myself and Samantha Willcox compiled a set of criteria which we used to select the seven participants for the two week workshop.
The 7seven project was a combination of one-on-one sessions and group workshops that took place over the two-week period. In total, there were four days of group workshops and three or four individual one-on-one sessions with each participant, usually lasting 2-3 hours.
The group workshops prior to individuals started photographing covered the following topics in details.
- basics of photography
- ethics of documentary photography
- brainstorming individual story ideas
- post-production & digital workflow
The final weekend of the 7seven workshop included two days of group workshops. Having these two days of group sessions before the close of 7seven gave participants much needed time to consolidate their final photo stories and provide high resolution jpeg files, captions and a short biography.
The final 11 minute multimedia piece was filmed, edited and produced by project facilitator Conor Ashleigh. All filming was done during one-on-one sessions with the 7seven participants. Conor also interviewed each participant at the beginning, after a week and at the end of the project. The intention of interviewing all participants multiple times was to highlight their photographic growth and a transfer of knowledge through the 7seven project.
Feedback indicated that participants gained both professional and personal skills and overall found the project deeply rewarding. Some comments included:
“I did learn how not to use the flash and still be able to get a great photo's with changing camera settings. I learnt a lot about light which gave me one of my best photos.”
“I came into this project knowing nothing about visual storytelling. I now know how to be able to group images to be able to tell a story and how powerful that can be.
“I learnt that I have a creative side within myself that I had not previously had. I also become more confident in my creativity.
“I have taken away great friendships, an excellent, life-changing experience and the thrill of having something of mine open for viewing to the public. This has been an excellent experience and I would encourage anyone else to participate if they ever got the chance.”
“I learnt that better engagement with subjects at short notice builds rapport before shooting.”
7seven visually examines Newcastle through the eyes and experiences of seven people between the ages of 7 and 77.
About Conor Ashleigh
Conor Ashleigh’s passion for social justice was ignited at the age of 16 when he spent time volunteering in a school for students who were crippled from landmines one of the brutal legacies of the Khmer Rouge regime. Struck deeply by his experience Conor started to look for opportunities to travel and volunteer in communities throughout Asia. At 18 years of age when living in India Conor’s love for photography was established and the medium for conveying stories was found. Conor returned to Australia where he completed a Bachelor of Development Studies at Newcastle University while also working in the community sector primarily with homeless youth. These experiences provided Conor with a strong foundation for the social and environmental issues he now covers. You can learn more about Conor and see his beautiful images on his blog: http://www.conorashleigh.com/blog/
For more information
Contact the Public Programs Manager on 4974 1412.