A Place Called Home – Photographs by Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora | Essay by Magali Duzant | LensCulture

Can art bring about change? Can it impart empathy? These questions are animating forces in the work of Birmingham-based artist Jaskirt Dahliwal-Boora. In the summer of 2023, she had the chance to put them to the test when she embarked upon her collaborative project A Place Called Home with four young women, Kiera, Tiegan, Sienna, and Codie. The work takes on the effects of gender-based violence, generational trauma, and the role of and relationship to the police within these grave issues.

In 2021, following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a Metropolitan Police Service officer the Met commissioned a report from an independent figure, the House of Lords member Baroness Louise Casey. The report, released in 2023, found a deeply-embedded culture of misogyny, racism and homophobia in the institution. It cited a collapse in public trust in the service, widespread cover-ups of sexual assault and a shocking disregard for cases of rape, as well as the disturbing presence of bullying and discrimination. In the wake of Baroness Casey’s report, a greater microscope is being held up to police services across the whole of the UK, not just the London area.

From the series “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

Whilst these moments of closer inspection often involve in-depth media coverage and further formal investigations, the report has also prompted new, creative attempts at internal responses. Following work done as part of the Coventry City of Culture scheme, in which cities are granted four years of funding to support infrastructure and arts projects, the West Midlands Police approached Dhaliwal-Boora with an invitation to work on a photographic project of her choice.

She decided to expand upon the subject of violence against women and girls as a multi-faceted one; a web of entangled relations with many people involved. “I wanted to work on intergenerational trauma. Because I don’t think trauma just exists in one person. It often is passed down in different ways. Especially when it comes to violence against women and girls,” the photographer explains. “That has many different kinds of impacts on different generations.”

From the series “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

In focusing on the young women who have suffered at the hands of abuse, Dhaliwal-Boora did not shy away from the role that the police themselves play in stories of generational trauma. “It’s such a difficult issue within policing because there are so many problems that come along with it and within policing itself,” she elaborates. “I thought it was important to try and make some work which could have an impact within the police.”

A Place Called Home explores the importance of family, security, and home as told by four young women, ranging in age from 12 to 13. They had all at various times expressed their traumas through behavioral issues, which had not been supported or addressed in a school environment. The project became a space for them to share their stories and open up about topics that they had rarely spoken about such as the fear of losing a carer, the weight of having a parent in prison, or witnessing domestic abuse. Composed of photographs made by both the artist and the girls she worked with as well as their own writing and family photos, the project has taken the form of a permanent exhibition at the West Bromwich police station, and a book which is now included in training and workshops for the police.

Spread from the book “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

The decision to, in a sense, “co-author” the work with the participants falls in line with Dhaliwal-Boora’s approach to her wider practice. “I think it’s imperative for an ethical approach in making this work that their voices are heard. And their work is as important—if not more important—than the work I might make with them,” she explains. The collaborative nature of the work and community involvement continued across the process. The school’s pastoral care team helped identify participants and Barnardos, a charity that offers support and counseling for children, families, and carers provided trauma partners throughout the process.

To connect with the girls, and make sure that their voices were honored, Dhaliwal-Boora ran a series of workshops at the school they attended. Over multiple weeks the group made zines, went on photo walks, wrote about their experiences, and learned basic photography skills. As the weeks went on the photographer spoke with the girls and their families, visiting them at home to make photographs and listen to their stories. In line with her collaborative approach and the emphasis on how trauma is passed down, the girls’ families were also invited to a workshop.

From the series “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

“We asked the families to bring in archival pictures, so we could talk about what’s important to them. It was really interesting because some of the family had never spoken about these kinds of things,” the photographer muses. “When I went out to photograph the girls, it really helped them trust me and open up more. I asked them where they’d like to be photographed or what would be the important part of their story that they wanted me to photograph. With a lot of my previous work I’ve always connected people to place and what place means to them. So asking them these questions was a starting point.”

Home was a central point for these young women. In her award-winning photograph A Portrait of Tiegan and Alfie, the siblings are cast in a painterly light, a look of trust on Tiegan’s face. The image radiates vulnerability and compassion. In the earlier workshops, Tiegan had shrunk away from being in front of the camera but in her own environs Dhaliwal-Boora saw her pride and strength shine through when she was caring for her young brother. In many of the images, family takes pride of place; a representation of home and love, seen in grandparents, mothers, and siblings. Codie is pictured with her Nan, Kiera writes of her family as her rock.

From the series “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

The project forced a flexibility of vision that Dhaliwal-Boora’s years of experience had prepared her for. “I’ve worked a lot on these issues of violence. In some of the work I’ve made with women in refuge, I can’t take their portraits. I can’t take photographs how one normally would. So it’s paramount to be able to adapt to tell these important stories about communities and marginalized people.” In this instance, this process took the form of following the girl’s interests and suggestions—from Sienna’s wish to not be photographed to a request to use an edited, less raw version of a text by Kiera. At each turn, Dhaliwal-Boora has centered her collaborators and given them agency in the work.

From the series “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

It wasn’t until she showed them a draft of the book that the reality of the project seemed to kick in. “When they saw the physical object, then they got it. That really hit home for them, that all the things we’d been doing in the workshops and the photoshoots and the conversations, it was going to result in this physical outcome. And that was very interesting, because the girls then changed their minds on what they wanted to include,” she says. “You have to have the space to accept those decisions, to respect who you’re working with, and allow their voices to be the voices that they feel comfortable with. To edit out or to take away when you know something might have more force but you have to put the young person first. In telling these stories, it’s important to see it’s not just numbers or statistics. These are real people.”

From the series “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

When confronted with such disheartening events, it can be difficult to shake the feeling that society’s issues are impossible to solve. In the book, Dhaliwal-Boora explains: “I felt the urgency to drive empathy at the heart of this work so that police officers who engage with it might react differently in the future when facing a situation of violence against women and girls. Even if only one officer were to change their behavior, that could have a chain reaction, changing the lives of many women.”

Spine of the book “a place called home” © Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

The results of the work are evidence of the power of Dhaliwal-Boora’s approach. The chief superintendent covering the West Bromwich station has noted how many people “quietly contemplate the work, really reading through it and just taking it in.” The portrait of Tiegan and Alfie is on display across the UK after being named one of 2023’s Portraits of Britain by the British Journal of Photography. After a smaller exhibition at a local library, one of the teachers from the school took the prints back to the staff room. “They said to me afterwards that a lot of these teachers are so busy with so many students, they didn’t really know that this was the situation of these particular girls,” says Dhaliwal-Boora. “It really helped to drive that empathy.”

The photographer has described her role in the mix as a storyteller. “I love storytelling, obviously. But the kind of work I make has always been collaborative.” It’s a fitting ending then that the spine of the book A Place Called Home pays homage to its many authors: “Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora with Codie, Kiera, Sienna, & Tiegan.”

a place called home

by Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

ISBN: 978-1-234-56789-7

Source link

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Close Popup
Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

Technical Cookies
In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

We use WooCommerce as a shopping system. For cart and order processing 2 cookies will be stored. This cookies are strictly necessary and can not be turned off.
  • woocommerce_cart_hash
  • woocommerce_items_in_cart

Decline all Services
Accept all Services
Open Privacy settings