Since September cmap has been running our photography project ‘I’m just me’ for young people who attend ‘Allsorts’ a youth project based in Brighton to support and empower young people under 26 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or unsure (LGBTU) of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
‘I’m just me’ is a Youth Initiative inspired by a virtual exchange project cmap facilitated in 2011 titled ‘Just Different’. Young people who took part in the original project want to organise a follow up programme that will help other young people explore their sense of identity in a positive way as the experienced themselves. The project has funded by a Youth in Action grant from the British Council.
The project has involved a group of 12 young people aged 16-25 designing and delivering their own photography based sessions on identity and self to other youth groups in schools and youth clubs in Brighton, London and across the South East. The group has designed a pop up photo studio which invites other young people to pose for a self-portrait with a blackboard speech bubble which outlines their thoughts on identity and difference. Their aim is to stimulate debate on the importance of ‘being yourself’ and to also break down the preconceptions and prejudices other young people hold about LGBTU groups. Their hope is that the touring photography studio will enable their peers to understand the importance of tolerance and diversity in society.
“Peer educating can be such a great tool to explore different ways of thinking because the environment that is created through it can feel so safe and relaxed. This is absolutely vital when what you are discussing can be of a sore subject. It could be perceived that many young people live by a “you lead and I’ll follow” mentality as an outcome of low self esteem and the beauty of the individual is being lost. The media and other sources have such an influence on how young people view themselves and this sometimes isn’t to a positive effect- its projects like this that can help to remind young people that being different to each other is a beautiful thing. The use of photography helps make being involved exciting as well as allowing those involved to see themselves in a new dynamic way. I’m so proud that I could be a part of something so special!”
Reuben Davidson, project participant
All of the work the produced by the young people will be exhibited to the public in a show in Brighton in December. Participants will be supported by their Coaches, cmap Facilitators Laura Montag and Lynn Weddle, but the exhibition design and curation will be led by the young people themselves.
“The project has been a positively amazing experience to be involved in. It has enabled young people to gain practical skills as well as a sense of empowerment whilst
building their self-confidence. It has engaged other youth groups to challenge issues surrounding discrimination and prejudices and to gain a greater awareness of the impact.
The core group of young people have worked well together where photography has proved to be a great tool to share and collaborate on ideas. Some young people are studying photography and have been keen to share and develop their technical photography skills within the concept of the project.
The young people have voiced the importance of working within a wider community or youth groups to promote a sense of identity in a positive way. Some are working as peer educators and have first hand experience on the impact within working with a wider community has.
The images produced by the young people have been powerful and thought provoking. Through a series of discussion groups the young people chose make images that would promote and celebrate diversity and the importance of ‘being yourself’. They wanted to share with other young people the value of respect for all regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Laura Montag, Facilitator