The Freedom of Art in Prison | A Photographic Workshop

The Freedom of Art in a Prison

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 have recently been part of an artists’ collaboration where we’ve delivered a series of workshops
to residents and staff at Parc Prison in South Wales. I always knew that the photographic element
of these workshops would likely be the most challenging to think up, set up and take inside a
prison, perhaps even the most contentious. Mainly due to the expected issues around clearance of
cameras and not being able to take in or out my memory cards. There is also the Prison’s brief to
consider, on what types of images can be shown, whilst adhering to anonymities outside the
prison’s walls.

This was already beginning to conflict with the very layers and processes of my artistic approach.
Which went on to gift me with new angles to find and to tell an authentic and more contemporary
way of documenting some the residents’ stories, as well as some of my own, during my time spent
at Parc.

So I chose to share my personal photographic project, Discarded With Honour with some of the
people living there. It’s a personal project that began in 2021, where I photographed the no-longer-
used objects of mine and others, in places that gave us a sense of connection with them, recalling
these objects’ 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 inside a prison, by giving voice to our
possessions to share some incredibly personal stories.

Some of the men who took part in these workshops were fathers themselves, though each
participant spoke of their family by using objects, owned or borrowed, to share and relay some
intimate stories, which in turn opened up discussions between us that held no boundaries. That
gave a freedom of speech they quite possibly wouldn’t of had within their daily lives behind bars.

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.

These conversations were sparked by objects such as my daughter’s Gruffalo book, how one
father, Richard reminisced about reading this to his own children each night. How another
participant, Daniel shared some words from his journal, the only link he currently has between a life
before and a life right now.

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-workshop facilitator and I would talk about the images made that day on our drive
home each week. Describing every one them 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 inviting this group of men to take part,
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, giving full freedom
in those few hours. I hope we can continue with this project, sharing the freeing role that art and
creativity holds for even the most diverse of communities.

Creative Roots is a unique programme delivered by the artists’ collective, Das Clarks. Where the
programme inspired those living and working in confinement to explore creative freedom. With
sessions delivered on the residential wings of Parc Prison, Creative Roots involved an initial
foundation programme of creative exploration back in 2021. The foundation activity developed into
specialised sessions in print making, painting, photography and writing. The work featured in a
performance-based exhibition during May 2023 – one inside Parc Prison and the other open to the
public in Newport, South Wales. The artwork and performances were created by residents, staff
and the artists involved in the project.

Das Clarks are Gareth Clark, Marega Palser and Dee Rogers with Bill Chambers, Marion Cheung
and Jo Haycock.

Featured in the Late Summer 2023 issue of JUNO Magazine

RPS Women in Photography magazine feature

Nothing compounds the importance of keeping a space for the unexpected in my work than this – a simple hand towel. Used to wrap a precious ornament from my late-grandmother’s house after she had passed away.

It was this towel that still held the scent of her perfume when it arrived into my home. I tried to preserve the scent in a bag, held in a box and put into a drawer. A year later I pulled it out and the scent had gone.

Discarded With Honour began as a personal photographic project that is now shared with others. It is a growing collection of stories and images about the objects that came into our lives and that now no longer serve us. By giving them a ceremonial goodbye in this way, we get to remember and reconnect with them one last time.

I was invited to share some words and images about this project with the Royal Photographic Society’s Women in Photography magazine, WE ARE at the end of last year.

I am curious about the people I meet and I want to give them the chance to offer some gratitude and a visual legacy to the objects they no longer use yet they still hang on to. The communities I continue to share this project with through workshops and monthly contributions, will form a series of exhibitions and hopefully, one day, a book.

It’s these very possessions that we hang on to, that can sometimes trigger a sadness or frustration, rather than the joy with which they once came to us. But they tell the richest stories about us that we need to share.

Discarded With Honour | The Artists Collaboration

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.” Orson Scott Card
Discarded With Honour is a photographic project which began for me at the start of 2021. I’d spent the best part of the year before, looking around our house at the hoards of stuff we had collected over the decades. I found myself thinking about the significance and meaning of these objects that are so familiar, yet by stepping back and looking at them more curiously reminded me of their own story, of how and why they came to be here.
What struck me most is how many of these objects can stop bringing us the joy they once brought, that we can forget the reason why. So I chose to give some of them a ceremonial goodbye through stories and photographs, to reconnect with them to be able to let them go. I started with some of my own possessions, like my grandmother’s old hand towel from her home after she died, the bath toys my daughter no longer plays with. It became more of a social documentary after this, where I began photographing others, like Leo beginning their non-binary journey and disconnecting with the clothes they no longer want to wear.                                                                                                                                                                                                     
I’ve always wanted to collaborate on this project with some of my artist friends, where many live around the world and we don’t get to meet easily in person.  I became curious about what they might share and want to discard. Or not to discard in some cases, about the objects that no longer serve them in life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
This became our project for the month of December 2021. A weekly advent, if you like, about metaphorically letting go rather than gathering.
A place where we get to honour the objects we walk passed each day, or get brave in our sharing of stories with some rituals around some possessions that once brought joy and might now cause pain.
Some of these artists have shared a few of their stories below…

Back in the 80s, my parents had this telephone in their house. Eventually it got replaced with a cordless phone and was moved up into the office loft, where I used to sneak off and go to hide out. The telephone sat on a big wooden desk and I remember tinkering with the dial just to listen to the sound of it winding back, while placing the chunky handset to my ears. Its loud ring would make us jump out of whatever we were doing to rush to pick up the phone, and I would always anticipate it was some relative calling from Hong Kong.

Since this telephone has been in my possession, I have got it out for one time to use mainly to remind myself of its simple charm. I was curious to see if the children might play with it, but I think I fooled myself into thinking that they would be interested. Mobile phones/ WhatsApp/ FaceTime have replaced the way I/they connect with our friends and family nowadays. What would they have with the use of an old telephone?

I think someone else might appreciate its charm instead, so it’s time to put down the phone and say one last goodbye.


Kyra  |  @fasophotography

I want to discard the noise in my head. Negative self talk. Images that should inspire but leave me anxious. My head is filled with the noise. Colors of blue and red blending into darkness. Escape in a bath. Unplug. Less noise. More time. Less noise. More books. Less noise. More creativity. The noise is still there.I must get rid of the noise.More God. Peace.


Lizzie  |  @liztomo2

My favourite wine glass…broken.

It was my favourite because it was big…big enough so I could put plenty in before I flopped on the sofa at the end of the day when the house was quiet and I was done being Mum…and it meant I didn’t have to get up too soon to refill it.

As I get older, I can see that my relationship with alcohol is pretty broken too…it doesn’t serve me well and give me the life that the adverts all promise.  Having done extended alcohol-free breaks before, I know deep down that I much prefer the person I am without it.

Let’s face it… 2021 has given us many reasons to drink!!….but I need 2022 to be better.

My kids deserve the best version of me…and through that window, I can see a much better and happier life.


Ann  |

I wrote you a letter today. Pouring my heart into ink on pages upon pages of paper. It’s the first time I’ve done so, allowing my heart to be heard and honoured. I felt physical sickness at the same time, my emotional centre, my solar plexus taking the brunt of it. It was a day of purging. Today I am releasing all the bad memories, the darkness, the unsaid words, the confusion, even the good memories and the happy contradictions that I have held in my body. I no longer need to carry them around with me.

Afterwards, the tears flowed and I could feel your presence around me, like a cloud, maybe this was the parts of you I let go. Maybe in setting myself free I set you free too. Now, the empty spaces within me, those spaces that I have freed, can finally blossom and bloom into something new & extraordinary.


Wendy  |  @wendyalweyn

Christmas time is family time
I love everything about it
Grandma always made us clothes
As a child, I wanted bought clothes just like my friends
Now I wish I had the clothes she made me
Always made with love
This was the only time of the year we got new clothes
Now, every year, my girls and I buy new clothes for Christmas
Continuing on the tradition
And each year, when we put up the tree
We keep front and centre the ornament that adorned grandma’s tree – an elf, no longer able to hang
A tribute to my childhood
Where I stand, 5 years old, in my new clothes and the Elf on the tree next to me
Every year I think will toss away the Elf, but he still seems to find his way back


Kirsty  |  @kirstylarmour

I’ve always been hard on myself with flowers, as if to buy them when I know they will die and be discarded is an extravagance I can’t afford myself, yet I know they bring me immense joy, and why deny that pleasure? So when we moved back to India I made a pledge to myself to embrace this joy. In India flowers aren’t a luxury, but a necessary part of everyday. They are part decoration, part worship and ritual, and they are discarded with ease as part of the process. And yet still it’s hard for me to let them go – I leave them withered in a vase, unable to put them in the bin, or dried and discoloured and hanging from picture frames, not yet consigned to the rubbish heap. I never want to let go.

They’re not a possession to own, but something transient that passes through our lives, still, something I hold dear. But maybe it’s the habits of how I treat myself that need to be released. And the flowers become symbolic. The beauty of flowers, and my reluctance to let them go…..


Read more #discardedwithhonour stories by visiting the other artists who contributed here…








Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.” Orson Scott Card

Welcome to our #discardedwithhonour blog circle. This has been an artists’ collaboration throughout December 2021, giving celebration and honour to the possessions in our lives that no longer serve us. Sometimes these objects stop bringing us the joy they once brought. By giving them a ceremonial goodbye, through our stories and photographs, we get to reconnect with them. We get to let them go.

Please visit the next artist, the talented Ann Owen to hear about their experience over the past month.

Discarded With Honour | Exploring Gender

Exploring Gender

It was only at the beginning of this year that Leo began to acknowledge that the gender they were assigned at birth didn’t feel right.

So when Leo offered me the gift to help them creatively explore a part of their non-binary journey, I knew it might be one of the most precious gifts I’d ever received. It became an open and sensitive dialogue between us, where there was no such thing as the wrong question. Only a space for honesty and the honour to give something visually back to them, in a place they connect with.

We had been talking for some time about how we might photograph this part of Leo’s gender exploration – looking for a way to celebrate and importantly acknowledge this time. They packed a rucksack filled with clothes and artefacts they now gravitate towards, as well as some clothing that despite holding such strong stories, they need to disconnect with. For the time being at least.

We headed to a forest in South Wales, where the waterfalls and branches from the trees became more symbolic than either of us envisaged.

We went with what felt right at the time and at one point of the day, as they waded into the water in a dress they no longer wear, all was silent as they let this part of their former identity go. I literally didn’t breathe in those moments.

It was only at the beginning of this year that Leo began to acknowledge that the gender they were assigned at birth didn’t feel right. This became the start of their journey, and it is by no means the destination.

“I had no clue that I was non-binary until a few months ago, in fact I barely knew what it meant, despite being a tentative member of the LGBT community. Each person’s journey is unique. It’s like trying to fit the puzzle pieces together then realising that they were never meant to fit, just throwing it all up in the air and making your own,” says Leo.

Although they have only recently begun having open conversations with others about their gender, Leo didn’t hesitate in wanting to support others by creating a safe space for people to question, express and explore their gender and sexuality. They created the Radical Curiosity course, which ran over four weeks in August this year. I feel this is especially wonderful, as Leo had only just announced their true self to the world, less than a month after I had spent the day photographing them in the forest.

A close friend of mine is currently supporting her 16-year-old, Jay, as they explore and communicate many feelings around their gender and anxiety.

“The only thing I ever want for my children is to be happy,” says Jay’s mum. “There have always been ups and downs in the parenting journey for so many of us. For me though, it’s essential that I support all and any challenges they face and that we keep talking and learning. The most important part is that we love ourselves and we surround ourselves with people that love us back equally.”

Having only recently shared this part of their journey with their own family, Leo now smiles while telling me that a friendly competition has begun in the family. Their mother might ask ‘Laura, can you make a cuppa please?’, to which their father will correct her with ‘Remember, it’s Leo now.’

I asked Leo what they might say to parents who want to help support their children through a similar experience. They tell me that it’s important for parents to remember that it’s completely fine to change, and not to question or doubt anything about their experience. They already know the most about this, they are the ones guiding, rather than the parents, especially as by the time they are getting to the point of talking about it, they’ve been through such a lot already. So don’t assume anything, give them space, and keep it open. Keep the conversation going, for example when you’re washing up together or while out on a walk. Be the safe space.

What neither Leo nor I realised about the day we spent at a waterfall in a forest, was that it would become a baptism for their new name. That tentatively walking into the river in a white lace dress, unplanned and undirected by me, was the visually symbolic moment that unlocked the language needed to express the next part of their journey.

Discarded With Honour is a personal photographic project with stories around the objects and possessions in our lives that no longer serve us. By giving them a ceremonial goodbye, we hope to let them go. This day with Leo was a disconnection of a loved-dress they no longer wear, as they connect more into their non-binary journey.


As featured in JUNO Magazine 

If you would like to hear more about my work, please email me HERE for a chat. I can also add you to my newsletter, if you’re happy to receive stories and updates from me from time-to-time.

Discarded With Honour | A Photographic Project

Discarded With Honour

A photographic project about letting go

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, of what last year and the first half of this one has meant to people as well as myself.  I do know that there is a strong element of ‘good riddance to 2020’ by needing to leave behind the fear and jail-like existence we’ve felt for many months throughout. Though I cannot help wondering how to let go of this time with some honour? As there have certainly been some reflective and creative moments in my world over the past 18 months. What with new virtual friendships and supporting communities being made along the way.  So I don’t feel that it should be just this pandemic that gives 2020 its bookmark to go down in history.

Discarded With Honour is a social documentary photographic project with a growing collection of images and stories. Where I want to give the people I meet, the chance to offer gratitude and a visual legacy to the possessions that no longer serve them and that could now be bringing them a sadness or frustration rather than joy.

This is a ceremonial goodbye for some objects as they leave home. Or the honour of a story around a possession they know they cannot part with, but need to purge.

Most of us surround ourselves with artefacts for a reason, a connection and story. In many cases there comes a time for them to be let go. Whether it’s because we don’t want them anymore or that we cannot keep them. It is these possessions that have been of part of our lives and they each hold many layers of memories for us.

It’s fair to say that I’ve spent more time than usual in my home over the past year. As well as the need to let go of clutter, I’m also painfully aware that some of these familiar piles of objects are now taking space without the joy or purpose they once gave to me. In fact,

I’m starting to feel the pangs of sadness when I look at them or clean around them, or know they’re laying in a black bag ready to go off to a charity. Almost like I don’t care but I do care, maybe too much.

I’ve been noticing these little pockets of sunlight, falling around our house at different times of the day. Peeping through the blinds as stripes and landing on certain stairs at certain times. It’s my daily observations that make me want to take these discarded objects and bask them in their own moment of glory for one last time.

Like the family bath toys we still keep around the tub. No longer played with, yet I’m not ready to part with them as I can hear her infectious young child’s laughter while she flooded the bathroom with these toys in her games. I was taking a shower the other day and I looked down to see this single beam of stage light bursting through the curtain. It was then I realised I needed to give these toys a centre stage, their final curtain call.

My friend Jemma lives down the street from me. She’s a got a garage full of treasures she cannot part with. There’s a case of full of baby clothes once worn by her 14-year-old daughter. “My parents kept everything of mine” said Jemma. “I moved away after getting married, so it’s lovely to go through my childhood remembering the stories of wearing or playing with them, whenever we go and visit” she adds, “I want this for her, but we’ve just not got the space.”

I photographed my daughter’s bedroom a few years ago. We were swapping her little child’s bedroom over to her teenager’s knock-before-entering kingdom. I remember photographing each treasure as it lay, thrift-shop jewellery pieces, collected stones, faded animal posters and her artwork.  In a moment of needing to explore the familiar, soon to be unfamiliar and immortalising this time of our family life.

Then the time I helped to pack up my late grandmother’s house. I’d chosen the ornament I wanted to keep and wrapped it in one of her laundered hand towels to protect it on the journey home.

I could still smell her house and the perfume she wore. I tried to preserve it by wrapping this towel in a sealed plastic bag and placing it a box, just to inhale when I needed reminding of her scent. I went back to this towel a year later and the scent had gone. I was heart-broken, but yet I still cannot part with this towel.

By photographing and engaging others to think about how they hold on to possessions, I’m hoping it will be a cathartic process, as well as helping to heal some difficult memories for people with their stories.

I want to bring audio into the project as well, by recording the stories of others and why they connect to these various objects. It gives another layer to this project and hopefully gives each person a deeper acknowledgement of gratitude in saying goodbye. With it a sense of freedom and affirmation that honouring and releasing this possession with a memory can bring.


As featured in Juno Magazine Spring 2021

If you are interested in finding out more about Discarded With Honour and perhaps taking part, please email me at

Coast-to-Coast Project May 2021 | from the west to the east

Hastings Pier has always been my grounding point.

Over the 20 years we’ve been visiting our family in the east, the Pier is a place I’ve gravitated to. And this trip to Hastings to visit family, who we hadn’t since since last summer, saw me back there once more. Quietly observing what has changed and what has stood still during this time away.

It is the halfway point of everywhere I’ve come to know in this old faded and majestic seaside town. It’s my finish line for a morning’s run, the place we’ll meet friends and it’s where Jeanie and I will ‘roll the boards’ on skates, me taking tumbles and attempting tricks my 14-year-self shakes her head at in embarrassment. This activity has sadly been since banned there.

I’m thankful for the walks, for the delight of seeing the beach huts packed with curios and candyfloss, and to walk right to the end to gaze far, far out to sea.

Though on this day, I was thankful just to be able to people- watch and the gift of that 360 view of the beach, promenade and ocean.

For the chance to watch the lovers watching lovers, the banter of my fellow humans coming back to life after lock down, and for the familiar shrill, shriek and cry of the gulls. A place I’ve missed and a place I am happy to call my other home.


“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, from A Gift from the Sea.
Welcome to our Coast to Coast loop. We are a group of photographers from around the world, from timezones as far flung as Australia to Canada and in between, each with a different seascape. Coast to Coast aims to document our changing sea views and perspectives – both literal and philosophical – of what the sea means to us, month to month through the changing seasons. To follow the loop, go next to the talented Rachel Rimmell and experience her coastal adventure for May 2021.

Families Resetting

“My great grandmother left her abuser one night. She was told to go back home and make it work… after all she was a married woman with a husband and children. I’m so thankful things are changing for my generation. For me and my own children.”

I have always been drawn to people’s relationships, between each other, and with the spaces that they feel connected to and inspired within. Family life is simple yet complex, usual but unique to each family. What amazes me the most is the resilience of the family unit; how it can change shape and adapt to some monumental life changes.

Families Resetting is personal photographic project I began in January 2019, though the project idea had been growing a little while before this. I’m clear that its heartbeat needs to always focus on the empowerment and adaptation that families can find, once they’ve been thrown a curve ball. At how they’ve had to reshape themselves after going through a life-changing event.

I spent a good deal of time thinking about how I could invite these types of families to get in touch with me. In many respects it is a tall order asking people to share their most personal situations with a documentary photographer. Someone who, from the off, is saying they want to share, exhibit and feature stories that have a huge emotional attachment and, quite likely, has shaken their family’s foundations to provoke permanent change.

However, this project is very much about resilience, empowerment, and hope rather than plight.

The first of my families to feature in the project was Jenny and her two young children. They spent nearly six months in a women’s refuge after she made the brave decision to leave an abusive relationship. For her young years, she has the wisdom and insight of someone much older and has already made links within her own family’s history. As she compares her own plight to that of her great-grandmother who also suffered domestic abuse. It was incredible to hear as, although the project remains mainly subjective, Jenny is offering me an opportunity to explore the social issues and support available (or not) in her great-grandmother’s generation.

I remain grateful and humbled by these amazing people, who’ve invited me into their lives to tell a part of their story as honestly and as sensitively as I can. If you’d like to talk about my Families Resetting project, please get in touch here.

home in maindee photo project

Home in Maindee - a photographic project

Ismael home in maindee

I won’t deny my heart was racing a bit, but I recognised that this was also mixed with the tingle of excitement, the unknown of where this project might now go…

It’s been an incredible journey. One which I want to share some of my own self-discovery as an artist, along with sharing some of the stories of those whose front doors I’ve knocked on. Armed only with camera-in-hand, a friendly smile and a desire learn more about the lives of some of the people who have chosen to make their Home in Maindee.

I regularly have a personal photographic project on the go, these projects feed my soul and fuel my creativity into the day job as a documentary family photographer.  I love letting them take me on an honest journey and watch them turn into a story of which I have no idea where and how it will end.

When I applied for a New Paths funding project through Maindee Library, I had a clear idea that I would be relying upon the vast knowledge of a local estate agent who’d practiced in the area for over 50 years. Who knows the habits, trends and lifestyles of local folk buying and selling homes better than anyone else, right?

This was how my project idea was pitched, and after a quick meeting with said estate agent, it was a done deal, he was the linch pin of the project. I was clear that he would lead the way and open all the right doors into these people’s lives for me to interview and photograph.

It didn’t happen that way.

home in maindee photo project

I soon realised that, after countless attempts to trail a busy man selling 1000’s of houses, our diaries were not meant to link. His very lovely, but equally very protective PA was not as keen as me to see this project happen, so I was out on my own. Left tentatively hooking up with local Facebook community groups and literally walking up to people and doing what is known in the trade as my ‘elevator pitch’ – 20 seconds to draw them in to my world. I won’t deny my heart was racing a bit, but I recognise that this was also mixed with the tingle of excitement, the unknown of where this project might now go.

Carole not only welcomed me into her home, but greeted me with a perfectly brewed cup of tea, chocolate biscuits and told me how the living room we were sat in (known as her best room) was always used as the kids’ disco room while they were growing up. She’s lived in the house for nearly 50 years and remembers the day her and her late husband fell in love with it.

“We walked through the door and stood in the hall, it was warm and felt so right. We looked at each other and knew that this was the one.”

People move home for a variety of reasons, Jhons and Francy’s move to Maindee was for health reasons. Jhons tells me that this house gave them a chance to have a life, to heal the family from a long-term illness. Their home is now a haven of new life, friendships and vibrant childhood stories from Columbia.

living room photo project

“It’s very different growing up here for children than it was for my own childhood in the Columbian mountains. We’d go off on our own, build dens and teach ourselves to fish.”

I am also lucky enough to have experienced Francy’s exquisite homemade empanadas. This lunch invite came after our discussion about the culinary scents from around the world, travelling out of the kitchens from the different houses on their street around meal times. Tantalising the passerby.

They are both huge parts of many cultural communities across Newport, South Wales. Including the homeless communities where they take regular late night walks through the city armed with flasks of hot tea for those who live on the streets.

home in maindee

Alix and Ismael, are two of the warmest and open people you could wish to meet. When I knocked on their front door they were still unpacking boxes from their move to the area. They could of so easily turned me away for my inconvenient timing but instead, this union opened up some of the most incredibly spiritual exchanges of conversation between us.

“We were drawn here, looking for somewhere with a community that connects us. We’ve found it.”

Home in Maindee project

I continue to learn so much about them, from their wedding on a beach in the Scottish Highlands, to discussing The Day of The Dead Festive. Ismael is a magnet for meaningful conversations and connects with people everywhere he goes.  I should add that he is also “a crazy Mexican” (these are his own words, honestly!) and one of the most engaging storytellers I have ever met.

“Before setting up Friends Hair Salon, I used to work at the hairdressers in Owen Owen Department Store, along with Olwen who pierced the ears and Eve who measured the bras.”

If you ever need a good old belly laugh, then look no further than my Friday mornings with the girls in Friends Hair Salon. They are simply amazing. Like a big family with Lynne and Jo at the helm, looking after pretty much everyone inside the salon and outside along the high street. Like the Cheers Bar of Maindee, Friends really is the place where everybody knows your name. It’s the new yet the familiar each time I visit.

Jo haycock photo project

“Joyce is newbie though, she’s only been coming to the salon for a few years” says Lynne. “But when I look in the book and see she’s coming in, I feel a warm glow, as she’s always so happy and positive, a really inspiring soul.” 

It was difficult to visualise the right place to exhibit some of these photographs from the project. Originally I had thought about displaying them on the iconic house-for-sale signs you see on stakes in people’s front gardens. This quickly changed when I realised that the people I’ve been spending time with are in no hurry to leave the area, or they’ve just moved in. Many have been in the area for decades, as their parents and grandparents before them. So it seemed only fitting that everyone had the chance to sit in someone else’s living room and get a real sense of these stories, as I have had the privilege of hearing.

That is why I chose to create a living room exhibition in the corner of Maindee Library. By hanging a patterned wallpaper across a large wall for the mounted prints to be displayed. By hanging drapes in the window and borrowing different pieces of  furniture, from a rocking chair to floor lamp. Even this part of the project has its own tales and connections… with the furniture donators adding their own stories of how they acquired the rug, or how many grandchildren they’ve cuddled while rocking on that chair.

Living Room exhibition Jo Haycock photo project

The second stage is to plan an exhibition in the shop front of Friends Hair Salon. They’ve kindly agreed to let me dress their front window with some project pictures. I’m already looking forward to spending more time with the lovely ladies there in the Autumn.

An exhibition of work often marks the end of an artist’s project. However, I’m struggling to find that line, that finality. I’m talking about the connections I’ve made and the stories that these people continue to share with me long after I’ve taken the final photograph. They are now like new and growing friendships and for this very reason, I won’t call it



Finding a Home in Maindee - Jhons and Francy

Empanadas, a Monkey-face orchid and our exotic childhoods were just three of the many topics I got to talk about with Jhons and his wife, Francy on my second visit to their home in Maindee. This is a personal project, a documentary photographic project funded through the Maindee New Paths initiative. It’s a journey I’m on to find out why some people have chosen to make their home there.

“This house gave us a solution, it was our safe haven. Maindee has given us back our health and happiness”

Jhons and Francy chose a home in Maindee some 10 years ago, for a very different reason to why they choose to live there now. What started out as a house move for life-changing health reasons, now shows a home that reflects new life and their strong connections among the colourful communities that they are part of. From local festival collaborating to running the South Wales Hispano Latino community, along with all their other artistic and community-supporting endeavours in between.

I was joining them for my first taste of Francy’s homemade empanadas and guacamole – we’d previously talked about their street’s multi-culturalness by the many enticing culinary scents coming from the neighbours houses. Tempting the passerby as they walked the street around mealtimes, to at least guess the country’s cuisine as they walked through.  But I’d struck gold, I was invited in for lunch, I was in heaven!

It was fascinating to listen to Jhons talk about his childhood in Columbia. Explaining that as children, they would head up into the mountains for two days at a time, building dens, fires, learning to fish. His parents didn’t exactly know where he was but that it was ok, like a right of passage, a chance to learn and explore.

This made me think about my own childhood spent overseas and my freedom there, my own right of passage. We talked about how very different it is today for children, growing up in this community outside their front door.

“I smile as I think of my childhood. There are so many rules around children now, it’s so important that they get the chance to be children – they don’t have the chance to explore. I’m thankful and grateful for my upbringing”

We also talked a lot about trust. This journey has not only been about me gaining people’s trust, but about the people I meet gaining my trust too. I’m finding I’m sharing as much of my own life’s story, opinions and aspirations as those I connect with, a balanced exchange of information, essentially between strangers at first. I’m getting myself invited into different homes and we end up sharing, at times, some pretty intimate stories.  I’m also getting the chance to look at my own memories of living in Maindee, even further back into my own childhood. Things I’d forgotten about.  The comparisons of our lives at times during these conversations, can be strikingly similar and uncannily connected in ways that I could never of predicted.

As artists and general human beings, we’re forever looking at our process of how and why we do what we do. For me it’s a reflection back to how I connected with the last people or objects I photographed. Each time it’s different and I take a little piece of that connection into the next one and hope that it works as magically as it can. Mainly I know from experience, that it’s about trusting them first, by offering an honest tale or two about me. But with Jhons and Francy, they held their door wide open from the start, and the exchange of honest, heartfelt and inspiring tales began almost immediately.