Communities

Urban changes
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Sandra spoke to us about the urban landscape of Hyson Green as she cannot think of communities without thinking of the changes they have brought on the local High Street. Sandra explained to us how a neighbourhood is shaped by its locals in more than one way, and how the products and services available are also reflective of the people moving in and out of an area.
Theme: Community By Sandra Brown
On belonging
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'My life is like this “ Time, you old gypsy man, will you not stay put up in your caravan just for one day” poetry by Ralph Hodgson. I am moving from one country to another, One house to another, One memory to another. I am a caravan like water hyacinth.’
Theme: Belonging By Ismail Khokon
Going round and round
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Marcin addressed the theme of journeys by focusing on different transport vehicles (most of them being photographed on film during our photo walk on the High Street). Added to this he also spoke about the cyclicity of nature and how weather transitions from one season to another on a continuos journey in time.
Theme: Journeys By Marcin Forys
Acceptance
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Fola expanded on her previous stories about about Hyson Green and its communities as part of her history by explaining to us that she felt really lucky and blessed to have found the Sunday Church and the Vine Community Centre. She added that she felt she was instantly accepted by these groups. She considers the people she has met here as her family and vital contributors to her journey.
Theme: Family By Fola Shalom
Transitions
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Fola told us the story of her coming to UK and how she will always consider Hyson Green as an important part of her history due to the lasting quality connections she has established while living here as well as the local communities that made her transition easier.
Theme: My history By Fola Shalom
Traffic signs II (Should I stay or should I go?)
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Marcin explained for us how he made the association between these lights at a pedestrian crossing and the theme of ‘welcome unwelcome’. He told us that he saw the signs in terms similar to commands such as ‘stay / go / leave’ and that this made him think of the current political context, specifically Brexit in UK and it’s impact on the expat and migrant communities here.
Theme: Welcome-Unwelcome By Marcin Forys
Traffic signs I
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Here Marcin addressed the theme of welcome / unwelcome through an exploration of the neighbourhood’s typography and traffic signs.
Theme: Welcome-Unwelcome By Marcin Forys
Beach Day
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For this theme, Fola told us about how she took these photos while visiting a new place and this made her think of ‘Hellos’ along with the open horizon, sunshine and summer vibes.
Theme: Hellos By Fola Shalom
High Street metamorphosis
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Sandra photographed a number of sites across Hyson Green. She spoke to us throughout the series about how she spent most of her life in this neighbourhood and has seen it changed through the years. She told us about how she remembers different places like the stores on the high street changing owners and products or services, being closed down, and reopened, shaping the local landscape in the process. She spoke about how she finds the duality of this process a good metaphor for our familiar-unfamiliar juxtaposition.
Theme: Familiar-Unfamiliar By Sandra Brown
Catching the moment
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Gosia spoke to us about her decision to photograph her family in the park as she explained that with her children being really active, they end up spending a lot of family time in the parks around West Bromwich and Birmingham. She told us about how she’s passionate to capture her children’s emotions without asking them to pose (as she considers this produces an artificial response that’s recognisable in photography) and as such she tends to get them engaged in different games of imagination to provoke a more authentic reaction she can capture.
Theme: Family By Malgorzata Tokarska
Around West Bromwich
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Gosia explained that to address the theme of ‘My history’ she photographed some of West Bromwich’s easily recognisable spots. She explained that she finds the High Street to be one of them since she ends up with some errands at least a few days each week. Since she lives in this area for years now, she considers this street along with other spots including around the clock tower to be part of her history.
Theme: My history By Malgorzata Tokarska
Italy via Morocco
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Francesco responded to our weekly theme of ‘familiar-unfamiliar’ by photographing a cup of cappuccino, explaining this is the most familiar thing he could think about. He shot this and a pizza dough going in the oven in a little restaurant that blends Italian and Moroccan cuisine and was opened by an immigrant who spent half his life in Morocco and half his life in Italy. Francesco explained the most refreshing thing about it is that the coffee it’s really good!
Theme: Familiar / Unfamiliar By Francesco Falciani
Shadows and people
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Francesco explained to us that while on our photowalk he took pictures of people he felt might have belonged to each other in one way or another; people walking with a connection or a connection to their shadows. He explained that he really enjoyed the patterns created by the shadows and that you can argue a shadow always belong to something or someone.
Theme: Belonging By Francesco Falciani
Our group
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Anna showed us briefly a photo of our group at one of the photography workshops. She told us she sees our group as a little community in itself since we are people sharing something in common, liking each other and this activity and opting to spend time together. In her opinion, these are all essential things in defining any group as a community.
Theme: Community By Anna Fijalkowska
Recharging in nature
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On the theme of 'My History', Alishah spoke to us about how she used to spend a lot of time in parks and nature in general when she was younger, as her nan used to take her there. Alishah also emphasized how she translated this into her current life, still taking walks in the parks, these days, to relax and recharge.
Theme: My history By Alishah Iqbal
Motorcycle rider
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Alishah told us how for the theme of familiar-unfamiliar she decided to photograph a motorcycle rider on the street. She spoke about her older sister buying and riding a motorcycle and how she looks up to her. She also told us that motorcycles and cars bring back memories of her childhood and her relationship with her father, for whom she was ‘the right hand woman’ every time they would be doing any DIY on the family’s car.
Theme: Familiar / Unfamiliar By Alishah Iqbal
Mosaics
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I took this photo at the entrance of the Public Library in West Bromwich. For me, the many different small pieces which make the mosaics represent the diversity of places like West Bromwich, their openness to different languages and cultures in the public space and the intricate tapestry that all these diverse tokens of belonging form together.
Theme: Belonging By Yordanka
Migrations
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I once heard the following quote from a Bulgarian diplomat: 'The migration of aspiration will never stop.' After travelling so much and encountering people from different countries and from different ways of life, I am convinced of the truthfulness of these words. Birds and their journeys each year make me reflect on the journeys we undertake in search of warmer lands, more hospitable places, more beautiful views, etc.
Theme: Belonging By Yordanka
Places of worship and faith
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Being able to practice one's religion in a new place is an important aspect of feeling that one belongs. The beauty of this church and the summer sky above it makes me feel happy and less anxious about any new beginnings.
Theme: Belonging By Yordanka
The cities we feel attached to
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I took this photo in Bath after my graduation ceremony. It stands for a place which made me feel that I belonged and which has given me many opportunities to engage with the local community, interact with local people and enjoy activities in the British nature.
Theme: Belonging By Yordanka
Inner journeys
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I see romantic feelings and relationships take us on inner journeys. The way the woman in the photo is leaning on the man's shoulder brings back memories of journeys, people and places that even time cannot erase from my memory. It also reminds me of a book title I used to love when studying at Cardiff University and which I would often borrow from the library just to have at my place - 'The Politics of Touch'.
Theme: Journeys By Yordanka
A journey to a dream
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When I was younger my parents bought me a clock in the shape of the Eiffel Tower for my birthday because they knew how much I wanted to one day go there and visit it. I was looking at the clock wondering when the time will come for me to go there and visit. I even dreamed of studying there. Today, my dream has come true and I cannot help noticing what a long journey it has been to get where I am today.
Theme: Journeys By Yordanka
Charity Shops
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Anna spoke about the theme of 'Hellos', for which she decided to photograph charity shops -- more specifically their entrances. She explained to us that for her the entry in a charity shop is always followed by 'Hello'. She spoke about how for her, charity shops are the most common place in the UK where people come to help others, to volunteer, donate, to raise money, etc. She thinks about entering a charity shop as a great opportunity to meet nice, friendly, good-hearted and like-minded people. She sees interactions here as great ways of bridging a 'Hello' to a friendship later down the road.
Theme: Hellos By Anna Fijalkowska
Mangos and phoneboxes
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Alishah told us that in response to the theme of 'welcome / unwelcome' she photographed some mangos at the local market. She explained that in traditional South Asian cuisine these fruits are often used in food making and this always makes her think of her mother cooking for the family, which in turn she associates with a feeling of being welcome. At the opposite end she finds a disused phone box as very unwelcoming -- full of filth and grime.
Theme: Welcome / Unwelcome By Alishah Iqbal
Hello sunshine
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Gosia explained to us that she sees 'Hellos' as something very positive and as such she connects it to sunshine and vitality. She goes on to detail that here ('in the UK') 'hellos' are almost always followed by 'How are you?' another thing that, despite being seen by some as something superficial, she genuinely finds nice. She also recalls that back home people are a lot more tempted to complain or be blunt as an answer to the same question, a thing that can become tiring.
Theme: Hellos By Gosia Tokarski
Abandoned buildings
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Anna explains that for her the fact that many abandoned buildings have an open door or entrance is something she symbolically associates with feeling welcome while at the same time the state of the buildings themselves gives her a feeling of being unwelcome. This paradox is what made her choose these spaces.
Theme: Welcome and Unwelcome By Anna Fijalkowska
Phone box
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Francesco told us the first thing he photographed addressing the theme of 'Hellos' was a red phone box outside the West Bromwich Library. He told us how back when he was young, these were the first things that came to anyone's mind when saying 'Hello'. He remembered how he phoned his family and girlfriend at the time, while studying in Milan, away from his hometown in southern Italy. He recalls this as his first 'migrant' experience as even though it was more of an internal migration (within the borders of the same country) he perceived the north of Italy as very 'unwelcoming' and as such made an effort to phone home daily. He also remembers very well the north-south divide as the Northern League party back when he was a student was also pushing for splitting these regions. He told us he associates the phone box with connection and he recalled the time he received his first 'unlimited' phone box card from a friend in Sicily.
Theme: Hellos By Francesco Falciani
Lock
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Definitely unwelcome here.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Francesco Gianni
Welcoming sign
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Hope sign in West Bromwich, to make people feel welcome
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Francesco Gianni
Fruit Seller
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Fruit seller in West Bromwich welcoming customers.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Francesco Gianni
Library
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The Library reception welcomes readers.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Francesco Gianni
Polish Shop
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Alishah took a picture of a whole store based on cultural foods from Poland. She said "I think it’s so cool, I think it’s so great that something like that exists, because it connects you to where you are, wherever you are."
Theme: Belonging By Alishah Iqbal
Diversity
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A very important element of living in England is the diversity and tolerance of differences in who we are and what we look like. This freedom of choice is welcome to me.
Theme: Community and Welcomed By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
The phone booth
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A symbol of British culture turned into a garbage can. This abandoned red telephone box looks like a sign of disrespect for tradition and a lack of commitment to the city's image. You look at it and ask- why they don't care?
Theme: Welcomed- Unwelcomed By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
The Social Club
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Language social club. It was 2011, I came to the UK with the hope of learning the language. This social club hosted weekly English lessons for Polish people, conducted by a Polish teacher.
Theme: My history By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Fish Bar on the Corner
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A prominent meal in British culture is fish and chips. You can easily find a fish and chips shop in every neighbourhood.
Theme: Community By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Part of life
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I think the pub is an indispensable part of British people’s life, attracting people of from all walks of life. The regular moment in the pub makes them feel refreshed and relieved. I realised that what attracts people to head into the pubs is not only the alcohol and the food but also the incomparably talkative and relaxing atmosphere.
Theme: Community By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Puffed Rice
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Puffed rice is one of my husband's childhood food memories.You can buy it at one of the Polish shops in West Bromwich. He ate it often during school lunch breaks. The taste of this puffed rice, these food memories, help him connect and feel that he belongs. These memories take him to a happy place, right back to his childhood in Poland.
Theme: Familiar By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Lunch Box
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This has become my favourite lunch box. My first trip to the UK with a one-way ticket was by bus. I couldn't afford a plane flight. It was almost a 30-hour journey. I didn't take much with me. I didn't know how to take such a long bus trip, so in order to avoid motion sickness I only took something light to eat - rice waffles, carrots and a few slices of peppers. To this day I remember how the taste of this food made my journey easier.
Theme: Journeys By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
My Journey
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A complicated road led me to the place where I am today. I worked in the production hall making meat and vegetable skewers, preparing boxes for airplanes and checking foam cushions for car seats. I remember I started my journey to the UK with a faith that hard work was going to pay off. The photo shows my first workplace where, as a sociology student, after graduating, I wanted to earn some extra money before my master's degree. I spent a few months there. Eventually this plant was shut down last year, memories will remain. Today I can see how colourful this place was. I look and smile - it was a hard time, full of aching muscles and a feeling of fatigue, but also beautiful - I started to go my own way - free, independent, with a head full of dreams. A lot has happened since then but my journey continues.
Theme: Journeys By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
March 8th
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I remember when I first came to England in 2011, no-one except Polish and Latvian people celebrated Women’s Day. One English woman from my first job didn’t know about the day. 10 years later, her husband gives her flowers on this day every year, because he knew from her Polish colleagues that it’s Women’s Day.
Theme: Familiar- Unfamiliar By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Flying umbrella
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Running after an umbrella, broken by the wind and soaked in the rain, and looking for sunglasses at the same time. The British weather is so unpredictable. It was new to me to deal with it, as well as learning to talk about it. One of the most basic topics of conversation is the weather so it was the perfect way to start a conversation with stranger and exchange greetings.
Theme: Unfamiliar By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Short trips and commutes
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During the latest workshops as we looked at the development of personal style in photography and the impact of light on it, Gosia developed a series of photos addressing the theme of 'Journeys' and incorporating warm bright light. She talked to us about how she associates this theme particularly with the beginning of her life as a migrant in the UK, a time when she and her partner used to take every chance they could to travel and explore.
Theme: Journeys By Gosia Tokarski
Cycles as Journeys
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While we looked at how light impacts a photographer's personal style and explored the theme of 'Journeys', Alishah choose to do a series of photographs documenting her commute to work interlaced with images of the development of spring in nature. She explained that for her the recurrence of patterns and cycles in nature (like the phases of the moon and the passing of seasons) represents another way of thinking about journeys and time.
Theme: Journeys By Alishah Iqbal
Roots
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2021 was special for me - it brought huge changes, new challenges, tears of joy and tears of sadness, I am happy as ever, but also I was afraid like never before… I became a mother, I started my own family in exile, away from my relatives...I'm starting my first long term project - ‘She’. It let me keep memories close by while also documenting the changes as they happened. Documenting everyday life, I understood that the place where my daughter grows up is her place, that she is 'at home'. Thanks to this, I finally found an answer to the question that bothers me - where do I belong? I finally felt part of the place where I live. My family builds its own history here in the UK, we cherish Polish family traditions, but also create new, unique, our own.   The photo shows her planting a raspberry bush with her father. For me it is a metaphor of putting down roots, a long term project which keep us longer.
Theme: Family By Sylwia Ciszewska-Peciak
Churches and Communities
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Gosia and Szymon described how the church made them feel welcome because the Polish mass showed that there was a community of Polish-speakers in West Bromwich.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Gosia and Szymon Tokarski
Forget-me-not
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As we explored objects and photographic compositions that made us think of 'My history', Bianca choose to photograph a pressed flower in a book. She said she took multiple shots of this flower during the day as the object made her remember a gift she once received from someone which is much-cherished.
Theme: My history By Bianca Parvuceanu
The trash in the city
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When talking again about what made our participants feel welcomed and unwelcomed in UK, Szymon confessed to us that the trash he often sees in the city, on the side of the roads, in cul-de-sacs or at the corner of the street is something he finds quite sad and hard to understand. He always found this quite unwelcoming, as it was not something he saw in his home city and was not something that he expected to find here.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Szymon Tokarski
The grass is always green
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When we asked participants to photograph what makes them feel welcomed and unwelcomed after coming to UK, Szymon described how the grass maintaining it's green hue throughout the winter always made him feel welcomed here. In many temperate continental countries, when the cold weather bites hard, the grass turns yellow.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Szymon Tokarski
Typically British Buses
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On the theme of welcome/unwelcome, Gosia took photos of the doubledecker buses the she saw after first arriving in the UK. These felt welcoming to her as they confirmed her expectations of what she would find in this country.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Gosia Tokarski
Homeland
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During the fifth workshop we addressed the theme of 'Family'. I chose to photograph the front of a shop featuring a large banner with the name 'Homeland'. I think I made this choice due to my experience as a migrant and my parent's reluctance to even visit me in my 'adoptive country'. For this reasons I will always keep a strong association between my homeland and my family, I think.
Theme: Family By Oxana Bischin
Inside the bus
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Mohammed told us how he finds the interior of public buses very welcoming because they keep everyone safe and together no matter your background or walk of life, and because you can meet random people and start nice conversations.
Theme: Welcome/Unwelcome By Mohammed Umar Azmi
Perched bird
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In the session last week, we looked at composition, rule of thirds and patterns. This picture was taken in West Bromwich markets. In the midst of all the hustle I noticed a small bird. It was a very scenic moment that contrasted the surrounding environment.
Theme: Family By Alishah Iqbal
Gifts and Memories
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The items in the composition combine personal memories with "bigger" histories - e.g., the end of the GDR (which ran "out of time"). The items on the table are all gifts of different kinds, or mark special events: a watch from my school friends (which stopped at 5 to 12), a German translation of Shakespeare left behind by a colleague, a DDR number plate given to me by a student, a cork from a PhD viva celebration, and mini gin bottles from my 40th birthday (during the pandemic).
Theme: My History By Sara Jones
Central European Photography Club
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Do you like taking photographs? Are you from Central Europe and living in Hyson Green? Would you like to learn more about photography in a free workshop series? Would you like to take photographs of your local community and see those photographs in a virtual and physical exhibition? If the answer is yes, yes, and yes, then Post-Socialist Britain needs you! We are looking for participants to take part in a photography workshop series running on Saturdays between September 2022 and February 2023 in New Art Exchange in Hyson Green. During the workshops you will be instructed in photography techniques by professional photographer Oxana Bischin. You will take photographs of objects, buildings and places in your local community that are important to you and share your photographs and stories with the workshop group. The material produced in the workshops will inform our research on the relationship between memory, migration and community. Your photographs will be shown in a virtual exhibition on our project website. A live physical exhibition, based on your photographs and descriptions, will be designed by an Artist in Residence at our project partner, Centrala. The exhibition will be displayed in Birmingham and Nottingham. Workshop places are limited, so sign up now! Central European Photography Club Tickets The workshop series is open to everyone, whether you have lived in Hyson Green your whole life, or have moved there recently from another country. For more information, please contact: Oxana Bischin on postsocialistbritain@gmail.com