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RPS Contemporary Blog 7

Photography and Personal Development Course

Contemporary Home | Events | News

This is the eleventh blog in a series on COVID-19 and lockdown, edited by and


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RPS Contemporary Blog 8
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CREDIT: Mervyn Mitchell ARPS

Photography and Personal Development Course for underprivileged Young People: 10 years of the Nottingham Photographer’s Hub (NPH)

Mervyn Mitchell MA ARPS, Director Nottingham Photographer’s Hub

In 2010, I co-founded the NPH, our principal activity is working with community groups and vulnerable people using photography as a tool for visual creativity, personal development, community empowerment and to facilitate social change. Funded by a BBC Children in Need grant our Photography and Personal Development Courses for vulnerable young people in disadvantaged areas of Nottinghamshire were started.

Initially we worked with young people and young refugees living in Nottingham City.  However for the past 6 years we have worked in partnership with the charity Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries who have young peoples’ centres based throughout the county of Nottinghamshire. The young people are aged between 16-18 years who for various reasons including learning difficulties, mental health issues and behavioural difficulties are unable to function in a traditional school/college setting.

We achieve our aims through the provision of bespoke community-based photography and personal development courses which run for 10 weeks and are designed around beneficiary needs. This is implemented through individual and group work and exhibiting their work, gaining confidence and self-esteem and learning a range of interpersonal and project management skills i.e.

  • Learn practical photography skills and a new way of expressing thoughts and emotions which enhances their verbal communication.
  • Through interactive learning, individual and group work, help develop confidence to pursue other recreational, educational and/or employment opportunities.
  • Produce images that challenge stereotypes about their community.
  • Exhibit their work to the wider public thus instilling in them a sense of pride and achievement whilst breaking down barriers surrounding mental illness/refugees/asylum seekers/young people in care, etc.

Feedback from our Inspire colleagues is that their young people look forward each week to the photography class which is unusual for them to be motivated in a subject of study,  they especially enjoyed the minibus trips and the trip to London. They also commented to their surprise how well the final week exhibitions went, as most of the students expressed concern about showing their work to others, all their concerns were gone and replaced with beaming smiles as they collected their ‘Certificates of Achievements’. During the evening they are also rewarded with the compact camera they used during the course, a DVD of all their images and they are able to take their framed prints home. An example of the type of comments made: a mother of a student with severe learning difficulties who was near to tears as she had not expected her child to produce such ‘wonderful’ work.

Our course is accredited, and the majority of the young people achieve an EQF Level 1 Award in Crafts, Creative Arts and Media - something else they can be proud of.

We have worked to date with 300+ young people over 10 years. This work had to stop during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Luckily, our work continues during the current second lockdown as schools are not affected so far. Unfortunately, our trip to London, which is always the highlight of the course, had to be cancelled because all the usual sites we visit are closed. We plan to arrange another date in the future to visit London, as we believe the trip is an important part of the learning experience i.e., visiting places the majority of the young people have only seen on television.

We hope to continue the Photography and Personal Development Course into the future, with further funding support from BBC Children in Need.