As the end of summer draws near and the dark nights slowly creep in September’s Talk & Social see us back at the welcome and familiar Old Broadcasting House and the arrival of this month’s speaker Kirsteen Ashton who has come to talk about her work as a Social Documentary Photographer & ‘Photography with a Purpose’. As we all settle ready to listen Kirsteen seems a little nervous but is all smiles nevertheless!
Kirsteen kicks off her talk by giving us a quick outline on how she got into photography and like most of us it’s something she has had an interest in and then instantly got the bug. Kirsteen used to be a Marketing Director and although she loved her job and was extremely successful she knew there was something missing and wondered why she was doing it, so when a change of circumstances occurred she grabbed the opportunity with both hands, or should I say the camera!
In an attempt to learn the technical aspects of photography Kirsteens first trip takes her to a country of colours, tastes and culture, Morocco and decides that wondering ‘off the beaten track’ is the best way to see the real Moroccan life away from the normal tourist haunts and as Kirsteen is a real people person she uses her people skills to get her exactly where she wants to go by talking to one person who leads her to the next person and so on until she meets an old man with little or no possessions, living in very basic conditions, she instantly assumes that this poor man is living in horrid conditions and needs help however Kirsteen straight away admits to us that her assumptions are unfounded and these many is happy in his life cleaning fleeces or fat and dirt and drinking mint tea in his humble hut. It seems to me that Kirsteen has really captured a contentment in simple life not driven by material possessions which is rare in this life. At this point I am really captivated by her work so far and can’t wait to see the next set.
The next set ‘shooting Young Offenders’ was certainly inspirational to say the least. Whilst Kirsteen was curating an exhibition she had got to know the gallery owner and had been asked to document and art course ran for the rehabilitation for Young Offenders. Once again that word ‘assumption’ crept and Kirsteen found herself thinking ‘How on earth can Art rehabilitate Young Offenders?’ but as the days and weeks went on the results began to speak for themselves as Kirsteen discovered the vulnerability of these teens, many of which come from difficult backgrounds, hiding behind their hoodies to hide their stress and emotions.
Often through the news and television all we see of young offenders is the bad side, unruly out of control youths who are hell bent of breaking the law and causing havoc, however Kirsteen has shown in these images that there is much more to these misguided teens and shows us their personal journeys to rehabilitation as they build confidence and relationships along the way. This set certainly changed my view on the subject of rehabilitation through education.
The most powerful work Kirsteen displayed was work at the Teenage Cancer Ward at LGI. The images in this set depict the strength, courage & bravery of the children and the tireless effort, motivation and round the clock care provided by the staff that work there.
I felt mixed emotions looking at these images, sadness by the inevitability for some of these children but it touched my heart to see their smiling laughing faces even though they have to endure so much.
Kirsteen also showed us other work she had been commissioned for – St Georges Crypt a centre for a homeless charity and Simon on the Streets – a homeless charity which helps homeless people on the streets. It seems to me that many of us don’t realise what is happening in our own city whilst we go about our busy lives. Kirsteen has shown us some excellent, inspiring and emotive work and I am sure this is only the beginning, her style, drive and passion is inspiring.
So if you haven’t seen Kirsteen’s work its well worth your time to visit her website
Thanks to Kirsteen for sharing her work.
Kirsteen’s portrait with thanks to Si Cliff (click on image fore more). Main article image © Kirsteen Ashton. All Rights Reserved.