Tim Mitchell writes about the Cloud Photo Booth at ‘One Great Workshop’ on 17th June 2015 as part of the AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2015 and Sheffield Design Week 2015
Devised between Artist/Curator, Clare Patey, Stories of Change Project Leader, Joe Smith and photographer Tim Mitchell; the Cloud Photo Booth was created to give people’s questions about energy a visual presence in the Stories of Change project. In order to widen the conversation about energy and taking the form of an ever-evolving portable photo studio or booth, participants at every stage of the project would be prompted to ask a question about energy and to have their portrait taken with that question. The intention is that the growing collection of portraits will show who has been involved in the project, what they were thinking, and for the questions to then create debate and answers, going forward.
For the One Great Workshop project, the booth came to Bloc Projects for a day. Upon my arrival in that part of Sheffield I was struck by the rich textural surroundings of Bloc. So much industrial heritage with layer upon layer of use on top of it. Bricks, Graffiti, paint, steel, iron, rust, car parks, demolition, re-appropriation. The thought occurred to me that we could incorporate this into the backdrop for the booth. Ultimately, this wasn’t a decision for me though, as I was to work with the young students from University Technical College, Sheffield (UTC), allowing them to take ownership of the booth and to capture each other’s questions. They agreed that we should try photographing outside but first we worked with Bloc Curator, Charlotte Morgan in order to set up the booth in her amazing gallery.
As our first backdrop – indoors – we used the newly plastered gallery walls themselves, as these told a story of another stage of change and development for the local area; that of Bloc evolving into an even more established exhibition space. Charlotte added an old saw to our set up, as this was a relic from the space’s previous life, some 20 or more years ago. With the initial indoor set up ready, the UTC team were ready to learn how to use the studio set up. They split into two groups; and each member of each group learned a different skill straight away. Photographer, Lighting Technician, Cloud Prop Wrangler, release form manager and portrait subject or sitter. When one portrait was done they all switched roles and taught each other the ropes. Each one, teach one! By the end of each group’s session they had mastered the booth and taken control of every aspect of it, helping, teaching and photographing each other.
Fuelled by their adjacent Scenarios workshop and inspired by the exhibition of MArch and MAAD architectural students’ work from the University of Sheffield, and their own engineering background, they were able to ask some original and thought-provoking questions. By the end of the second group’s session they had time to go outside with the cloud and try shooting on the street. They incorporated some of the surrounding city textures and street scenes and finally had the idea of asking an evolutionary question as a group, in front of a massive mural of Charles Darwin. A genius idea. A great day and a pleasure to work with the students from UTC.
Post by photographer Tim Mitchell
See more of the photographs Tim and the students made and find out about other events held as part of One Great Workshop Connected Communities Festival