Cumbria Multicultural Women’s Network brings together women of diverse cultures now living in Cumbria, for the purpose of acknowledging and celebrating individual heritage and traditions, sharing unique and collective experience, and nurturing skills and confidence; thus enhancing abilities to integrate with local community and pursue new opportunities.

News

Migrant stories, visual storytelling

VISUAL STORY TELLING

Conor Ashleigh, photographer, recently 
spent six weeks with four families from Syria, Iran and Sri Lanka who have all been reunited in Glasgow.  

He is currently exhibiting photos from this latest project 'Starting Again', commissioned by the British Red Cross. 

 Conor Ashleigh - starting again, mohammed.jpeg

Can you tell me how you came to be involved with the British Red Cross, and this project in particular? 

I recently moved to Scotland and was approached by the team at the British Red Cross to work on this collaborative project with them. They had seen my long term work in Australia and in other countries, documenting stories of individuals, families and communities displaced by conflict. 




Conor ashleigh, pigeon.jpeg

 
conor asleigh 2 girls smiling.jpeg 

How important is photography in truthfully portraying the global movement of people from conflict? 

Photography is a powerful medium no doubt, but I am wary to say photography is a medium that always conveys truth. Too often a picture is held up as a beacon of truth while the ethics, or the context surrounding how the picture was taken is forgotten. 

For me as a documentary photographer, I see the most important aspect of my photography is the relationship between the photographer and the people they seek to document. Representation, where a person is willing and proud to have their story told is really important.

I've been really lucky here to have had such an opportunity with four wonderful families. 

 Conor ashleigh, woman at home.jpeg

CAshleigh, reflection in puddle.jpeg

Do you feel as though photography can positively influence a change in perception?

I don't believe photography is necessarily a beacon of truth but I do believe it can positively influence change amongst the audience. The greatest example of this was the war photography from the Vietnam war, we haven't necessarily ever had such an impact again. There are a number of powerful photographs which have changed public perception or at least have brought governments and communities alike to reflect on what is happening. An good example was recently with the picture of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi who washed up on a beach in Turkey.

CAshleigh,girl in red reading, jpeg.jpeg

CAshleigh, Mohammed & family, with table laid,jpeg.jpeg
Was there a general feeling about Glasgow that you found when speaking to the people in your photographs?
 

The four families experiences were all different and I think that was based on many factors, namely how long they had been living in Glasgow, where they were living etc. One thing for sure though, all of the families were greatly appreciative of having the opportunity to come and live in Scotland to receive support. Housing, education and healthcare were all things that I heard the family talk about and value highly. 

cAshleigh, twins.jpeg

Was there a general feeling about Glasgow that you found when speaking to the people in your photographs? 

The four families experiences were all different and I think that was based on many factors, namely how long they had been living in Glasgow, where they were living etc. One thing for sure though, all of the families were greatly appreciative of having the opportunity to come and live in Scotland to receive support. Housing, education and healthcare were all things that I heard the family talk about and value highly. 
CAshleigh, family, girl from back.jpeg

How do you find the balance between taking beautiful photos and portraying the story behind an image?

I think that is something that comes out in the editing. I don't necessarily shoot a lot, sometimes it doesn't feel right, particularly early on with someone. I think the work reflects the relationship, as the connection gets stronger as does the work. For this project, every families photos were different as was their experience in their home country, their journey, time of separation and reunion.

Cashleigh, mother and children walking.jpeg 
 
 CAshleigh, 3 women in city centre, jpeg.jpeg
 

What’s next for you?

I write this hurriedly so I can jump on a plane back for Australia and then on to India for some photo assignments. I’ll be back in Scotland in December and delving deeper into another project with a refugee community in Scotland. I am hoping to launch some of the work by mid 2016. 

In the mean time if people are interested, on my site they can see my recently published five year project ‘Stories of the South’ documenting Australia’s young South Sudanese as they navigate identity and adulthood in their new country. The zine is available mid-December.

To see the Conor's images in person pop down to the Mitchell Library before the 31st, more info here: www.glasgowcityarts.com

The exhibition will be returning from the 3rd of November until the 30th at the Botanic Gardens, more info here: www.glasgowcityarts.com

To see more of Conor's work visit: www.conorashleigh.com

Interview by Jenny Coyne







 
 
 
 
 
 

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