Intergenerational Photography Project

As George so eloquently puts it:

“THE YOUNG GET OLD AND THE OLD GET OLDER…”

Never more true than today, with young people being grown-ups from a younger and younger age; managing themselves in the real and virtual world in a manner that astounds their parents and peers. The old are also getting older; retirement ages are being pushed up, pensions are meaner and seemingly further away than ever before. George, the enthusiastic domino man of south London, seems to have hit the nail on the head.

William and his young assistants

This February half term, Photofusion hosted its first ever Intergenerational project. To say it’s been a success is an understatement. The project was designed by Keanna Williams (aged 16) with support from Lizzy King at Photofusion and the aim was to bring old and young together, for them to get to know each other and break down a few barriers.

I’m not alone in admitting that the only old people I know are my grandparents. There is probably a reason for this; Lambeth is an overwhelmingly young borough. Last year’s State of the Borough report confirmed that only 10.9% of Lambeth’s residents are over 60. The other 89.1% are so busy trying to pass exams, pay rent, keep jobs, feed families and generally keep their heads above water, that it’s easy to see why Lambeth’s older community is sometimes overlooked.

Keanna introduces George to the camera equipment

This project was designed to address the gap between young and old. Working in partnership with Lambeth Age UK at their vibrant and welcoming Vida Walsh Day Centre off Windrush Square in central Brixton, young and old set about correcting a few misconceptions:

Misconception no.1:

“OLDER PEOPLE ARE BORING”

Within moments of stepping through the door at Vida Walsh, camera kits and portable studio in tow, our young photographers were quickly put in their place. The Vida Walsh members were on their feet, literally strutting their stuff. This is no place for wallflowers, and they were quick to entertain, tell stories, dance and at one point, lay themselves on the floor in poses from their life modeling days.

Misconception no.2:

“OLDER PEOPLE WON’T WANT TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH US”

After some initial hesitation around what a group of 6 teenagers were doing in their center with a whole pile of digital cameras, the members of the Vida Walsh Centre quickly got involved and worked in small groups led by a young person who taught everyone how to use the digital camera equipment. Old and young alike were inquisitive, full of stories and keen to break down any ‘us and them’.

Misconception no.3:

“OLDER PEOPLE WON’T TAKE GOOD PHOTOS”

This was a valid concern; we were using top of the range kit, radio transmitted flashguns, light meters, and cameras with view finders. The young people found ways round this and worked well to genuinely involve the Vida Walsh members in the workshops. Tripods were set up to support those with mobility issues, ‘live view’ was allowed for older people, so that they didn’t have to squint through the viewfinder, and camera instruction was taken right back to basics. It was a useful exercise for the young people, who had to adapt their communication style. They needed to explain things like how to lightly press the shutter release to focus, before fully pressing to get the shot. The results were great and can all be seen in the accompanying digital exhibition.

Misconception no. 4:

“YOUNG PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THE OLD”

This week, 6 young people aged 14 – 18 spent 5 days of their half term holiday working on this project. Instead of hanging around with friends, catching up on sleep, partying or even doing schoolwork, they dedicated their time to getting to know the older members of their community. They took a lot from it too; each young person will receive an Arts Award, young people had expert photography tuition and they actually enjoyed chatting with the Vida Walsh Centre users.

Misconception no. 5:

“YOU CAN’T ACHIEVE ANYTHING IN JUST 5 DAYS”

  • 6 young people have a new qualification
  • 22 people had a studio portraits taken
  • A professionally printed and mounted exhibition was shot, printed and hung at the Vida Walsh Centre
  • A transferable project template has been designed and tested by Photofusion, ready to take to the next day centre or residential home
  • 30 older Lambeth Residents met, chatted, laughed and shared in a creative task with 6 young residents

For Photofusion this was an eye-opening project. It was short and simple and all the better for it; we can pick this up and take it anywhere and hope to do so in the future. We really enjoyed working with the Vida Walsh Centre and Lambeth Age UK members and hope to work with them again soon.

Click on the thumbnails to view larger images

This project was funded by the Lambeth Youth Mayor fund and would not have been possible without the support of Lambeth Age UK.