Photography students were joined online by the Assistant Curator of the Barbican Art Gallery, together with members of the Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning team for a special afternoon of photography last Friday.
The Barking & Dagenham College students were introduced to the Barbican, its role, and how and what they can access through the city's arts centre, as well as its cultural education programmes.
The Assistant Curator, Chris Bayley, provided an overview of the current exhibition Masculinities: Liberation through Photography before students joined in a virtual discussion around the concept of masculinity.
The students were then set a task created by one of the artists Creative Learning work with, Daniel Regan, to produce a photographic image of their personal response to masculinities in just 25 minutes. Once completed, they were given the opportunity to present their images to a panel of distinguished guests from the Barbican and explain their inspiration.
Student, Atalanta Robinson, from Barking, decided to look at what the word masculinity meant to her as a chef. As she says: “It’s a male dominated industry where you have to work hard and be strong and tough like the rest of the boys in the kitchen. You have to say you cannot pick on me because I'm talented and I have the same qualification as you. I may be a woman but I am equal to you. I have chosen my electric hand whisk as my tool which signifies the power that is in your hands.”
Emily Smith, 18, from Romford, added: “I believe that no object should have a gender to it and people should be able to do and like what they want without someone saying that’s “girly” or “that’s for boys”. I took a photo of myself to show I can be both feminine and masculine, and it doesn’t matter.”
College alumni member Lewis Inman, 30, from Upminster who also joined the workshop, decided to photograph a pair of boxing shorts from South East Asia. Having been involved in boxing himself Lewis explained: “I have seen alternative views of how boxing represents stereotypes of masculinity in a variety of cultures. Although boxers around the world also pose as ‘macho’, in reality, such self-identity is being challenged. Thai participants are often very calm in nature and self-disciplined, are at one with nature, care for animals and many other things that go against many Western views of masculinity. In boxing, one doesn’t have to meet such expectations of the “self” as macho to be a successful fighter.”
David Bennett, Programme Leader for photography at the College said: “The students produced very mature work within a very short space of time, rising to the challenge to produce and present a personal piece of work. I am exceptionally proud of what the students achieved. Their images were both provoking and beautiful at the same time. It is not an everyday occurrence to find yourself presenting your work to a curator of the Barbican Art Gallery.”
The event was part of a series the College has set up called ‘Culture Must Not Be Cancelled’. The projects have provided students with opportunities to engage and practice with professionals and creatives at the top of the industry.
Jessica Hodge, Community Engagement Manager, Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning, commented: “It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and see what extremely talented and articulate students the College has. It was an honour to meet with them and for them to so quickly share so many honest reflections in response to the exhibition and the photography task. Their pictures were all so different and were all such clever interpretations of the theme.”