Tabula Rasa, a collaboration with Wirral Borough Council’s Creative Youth Development, celebrates the girls’ achievements on a range of projects using visual arts, dance, music and drama to build confidence, self -esteem and strengthen resilience.
The G.I.R.L.S. Project is an alternative informal education programme for girls aged 11-19 who have been identified as being at risk, vulnerable, hard to reach and with multiple complex needs. The aim of the programme is to reduce risk taking behaviour and raise aspirations.
Initially, there was some apprehension about having their portraits taken. I ran workshops addressing body image and how this can be manipulated by the media to help build positive thoughts about self-worth. In time, the girls were able to identity one part of themselves they liked and they photographed each other using the cameras on their phones or small compact cameras.
The work of photographers Roger Ballen, Tom Wood and Martin Parr was examined to help decide whether the images should be colour or black and white and the girls considered the different lighting techniques that could be used. The girls experimented with medium format film and decided on using digital as it allowed those being photographed to see their image and be happy with it to be included in the project.
The girls thought about what type of background would be suitable and researched portraits by photographer Alexey Shlyk and Rineke Dijkstra. Through workshops examining Pantone colours, the girls shortlisted blue, tangerine, purple, grey and yellow and they painted the backdrop canvasses themselves. The girls were consulted when selecting the images for exhibition, reflecting on aesthetics, the emotional exchange and the stories behind the portraits. The photographs were taken collaboratively by the G.I.R.L.S. visual arts group and myself and are a product of the trust, confidence and self-esteem engendered through this process. They celebrate beauty, strength, resilience and the possible future careers and lives beyond this moment.
“Before doing the G.I.R.L.S. Project I felt sad and unwanted that I didn’t fit in. I was scared to be myself. Now that I have done the Project I have met new friends who accept me for who I am. I have had help from the workers with issues in school and home and I feel sad because the project is ending. I know now that I should just be myself and proud of who I am”