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CREDIT: Abbie Trayler-Smith

Photography Against Bullying

The effects of bullying seen through the eyes of two photographers

Maybe you are someone who is made to feel that you don’t have the right coloured skin or you are ostracised for rejecting clothes which are traditionally associated with a particular gender. Maybe your body shape has become the focus of ridicule from others or you are teased for having ginger hair. Although you are all individuals, you all have one thing in common and that is that you are likely at some point to be bullied by others just for being who you are.

November 14th – 18th is Anti-Bullying week so this month I am focusing on two very different photographers whose work is helping to show the effects that bullying can have on the lives of individuals.

Jeremy Abrahams

Jeremy describes himself as a ‘socially concerned portrait photographer.’

Stemming from personal experience of anti-Semitic bullying during his time at school, his latest project, ‘We Carry It With Us,’ focuses on the impact of childhood bullying on adult life and relationships.

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It is Jeremy’s plan to create a large body of work from which an exhibition can be selected and curated, perhaps grouped by experiences, subject backgrounds, similar impacts or visual criteria.

Jeremy uses his photography to visualise the positive and negative impacts of childhood bullying on adult life. He documents the singularity of each bullying experience as well as the commonalities in the experiences of people from similar and different backgrounds.

Jeremy works in collaboration with his subjects, integrating their stories into the image by composing images with personally handwritten text, thus allowing the text and the image to form one cohesive artwork.

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‘We Carry It With Us’ will first be exhibited at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield from April to June 2023. Jeremy is actively looking for more participants for his project and can be contacted via his website.

Abbie Trayler-Smith

Abbie’s project, ‘The Big O,’ focuses on obesity amongst young people.

Abbie talks about the stigma and discrimination suffered by young people who are overweight, something which follows them from the schoolyard to the workplace and beyond. “Being overweight or obese is deemed to be self-inflicted, or even a lifestyle choice, and the ‘culprit’ labelled, fat, lazy, greedy, and thick.”

Through visually documenting the lives of a number of young people, Abbie has drawn attention to some of this stigma and discrimination.

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The above image is a portrait of a girl called Cala and recreates a painful memory from her time at school. She told Abbie that, "I once fell asleep on the bus home from school and one of the boys wrote FAT on my forehead in permanent marker."

The first young person to be photographed for the project was Shannon, who went on to allow Abbie unlimited access to her life as she tried to overcome the challenges of being an obese teenager and young adult. Shannon had suffered years of torment at the hands of bullies which had knocked her self-confidence. Taking part in Abbie’s project has, however, had a positive impact on her.

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CREDIT: Abbie Trayler-Smith

I wasn't very confident, I hated how I looked but now when I look at them I like the pictures she's taken.

Abbie wanted to turn the camera on an issue that really means something to her. She explains that she grew up as a fat teenager. And that “alarmist headlines fail to examine the everyday reality of struggling with weight and self-image.” "I've always felt really ashamed of being a fat teenager so it did feel really exposing but once I decided to go for it, use my own experiences to collaborate with kids and with families, it then felt really liberating and that shame kind of evaporated."

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