What they photograph in Worktown : participatory photography and Saturday afternoons in Bolton

Edge, C ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1435-5203 2014, What they photograph in Worktown : participatory photography and Saturday afternoons in Bolton , in: Recording Leisure Lives 2014, 15 April 2014, University of Bolton.

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Abstract

In 1937 Humphrey Spender photographed leisure in Bolton for Mass Observation’s Worktown study. MO recruited local people as participant observers but community involvement was fairly limited and the project has been subsequently characterised as a poverty safari undertaken by privileged outsiders. In particular critical debates informed by post-colonial theory have centred on Spender’s photographs, condemning his subjugating gaze. In 1930s Bolton photography was an elite activity and the cost of photographic equipment a barrier to participation but contemporary practice in documentary photography and visual ethnography has responded to these issues. Participatory projects put the cameras in the hands of subjects, enabling them to photograph their own stories. However this strategy tends to emphasise the subjective experience of the participants, asking them to record their own lives in order that others may understand them. This paper presents research from a photographic project, inspired by the Worktown photographs, which asked participants to observe the wider community rather than their own lives. Young people from the local area collaborated on a visual study of Bolton town centre on Saturday afternoons. Their observations, informed by both photographic training and knowledge of Spender’s photographs combine subjective and objective viewpoints, employing the camera’s ability to capture factual data whilst giving a unique perspective on how young people experience leisure in a controlled urban environment.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Depositing User: Dr Caroline Edge
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2019 13:49
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2019 14:55
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/50125

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