Jo’s Blog for Creative Roots
This blog is guest written by Jo Haycock.
Jo Haycock is a documentary and portrait photographer who explores the relationships that people have between themselves, others and the spaces they connect in. Storytelling photography for communities, families and social documentaries.
“Have a good weekend miss” he said as we left on that second Friday afternoon of our photography workshop, “you too” I replied.
It then hit me, that these common exchanges of pleasantries I have with folk I meet most Fridays in my day-to-day world, are now hanging with new meaning and a new perspective. Because his weekend ahead looks very different to mine and with far fewer opportunities to make it truly feel like ‘a good weekend.’ We looked at each other for a moment and didn’t state the obvious, my apologetic smile for his feelings of incarceration spoke the words into that gap.
I knew that the photographic element of our Creative Roots workshops, would likely be the most challenging to think up, set up and take inside Parc Prison. Perhaps even the most contentious.
Mainly due to the expected issues around clearance of camera kit and not being able to take in memory cards. Along with Prison’s brief on what types of images can be shown and adhering to anonymities outside prison walls. This was already beginning to conflict with the very layers and processes of my artistic approach. Which gifted me new angles to find and tell an authentic and more contemporary way of documenting some residents’ stories, as well as some of my own, during my time spent at Parc Prison.
I chose to share my personal photographic project, Discarded With Honour with some residents of Parc Prison. It’s a project that began in 2021 where I photographed no longer used objects in places that gave me a sense of connection with them, recalling their stories. Sometimes, I’d get rid of the object, sometimes I would keep it, but let go of feelings associated with it that were no longer helpful to me. Using this personal project was the pivotal point in linking a photojournalism-styled workshop, by giving voice to our possessions to share some personal stories.
Within the first half an hour, I realised that this was one of the most receptive group of people we could have worked with. So I threw down my workshop notes and told them that we were going off-piste, that they would now be leading this workshop. It was unexpected and rewarding and what followed were the most incredible and honest conversations between us all.
I was surprised at how fiercely protective I became over the men’s photographs, even before seeing them on screen. Like Tom’s handmade poker chip set, where he gave such thought and intention about where to place it and photograph it within the limited access to space that we had to show a connection as he wanted to. Like my daughter’s old bath toy duck, now named ‘Dave’ by Lewis, who became innovative in the Media Centre’s library as we searched for books with pictures of water to connect Dave with.
Dee, my co-facilitator and I would talk about the images made that day on our drive home. Describing each one from memory and hoping that they would make the cleared list. There was one instance where I found myself explaining to member of staff that I felt anxious at their offer to crop out what I knew to be an integral part of one of my photographs, because it displayed one of the men’s tattoos. It’s now that I understand the safeguarding reason around this ruling of ‘no distinctive or identifiable markings’ and the conversation led to a solution of me editing these images in-house alongside the men, who got the opportunity to take part in the post-editing process.
By using Discarded With Honour as a stepping stone and an invite to the men to take part in, it gave us each an equal platform to share some intimate stories through our objects. It gave us each a language to begin some honest conversations through the art of photography, I hope we can continue them.