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How I work with Co-POWeR to communicate research using photographs


Kartik Sharma is helping our team to represent the views of young people creatively 

As Nelson Mandela once said “it always seems impossible until it is done.” It is on these lines that I founded Public Arts Health & Us (PAHUS), a social enterprise committed to bridging the world of academics, artists and the public. I am working with the team at Co-POWeR to communicate their research with children, young people and families. This involves creating photos that capture the experiences and effects of COVID-19 on young people who identify as African, Caribbean, South Asian or dual heritage. Our aim is to give voice to their stories using photos.  

Over a process of 6 months of getting to know the research team, and in consultation with our youth panel of advisors, we have a plan. My idea is to use quotes from interviews and focus groups, which appear alongside photos, to capture moments of insight into the lives of young people since the pandemic. In particular, I am taking photos that capture a sense of heightened emotions and experiences that challenge images of historically under-represented communities in the UK. This is easier said than done!  

A 19 year old Black Caribbean participant who identified as male explained how the end of his relationship with his partner was particularly difficult; when you go through that break up, especially during lockdown when you can’t even go and see your friends and have them physically comfort you and talk…”  

My challenge is finding ways to depict a range of emotions related to lack of space, Zoom school, isolation, break-ups, living with key works and the Black Lives Matter movement. An Arabic proverb has guided my thinking: Examine what is said, not who is speaking. For me this means using the power of suggestion: Going beyond merely depicting the literal meaning of words. Instead, I invite viewers to reflect on what the young people are feeling and the underlying message to others. Photos therefore offer moments to contemplate in the comfort corners of your mind leading to reflection or, perhaps, action.  

Photos are open to interpretation but are intended to say something about the emotion being a Black child or young person during the pandemic.  

The final book of photos will be available online in August. Before then, my street photography will take me to Brixton, Brick Lane and Newham. For readers in London, if you spot me with a camera, feel free to pose!   

To find out more you can visit: 

Instagram: @kburia
Previous Photobook:

 Blog post by Kartik Sharma and Teresa Perez