Capturing the Spirit of Southwark
By Anna Sexton, on 19 April 2013
‘…to put on imaginative events for people of all mental experience. All our events seek to connect our inner and our outer world and ourselves to one another, whoever we may be…’
The Dragon Cafe itself is like nothing I have ever experienced before. I went not knowing anyone and had the usual mix of dread and excitement when you go to something for the first time…When I entered there was Latin American dancing in full swing, there were people sitting chatting to each other around a cafe area, there were people working together on a collective art project. I had a cup of tea and sat and watched and felt comfortable – there was a vibrancy and a buzz of activity around the place but surprisingly it simultaneously felt calm and relaxed.
I went with the intention of joining the photo group who contribute to Mental Fight Club’s ‘Spirit of Southwark’ project. They are using disposable cameras to take photos and they go on photo walks around Southwark as a collective activity. The group decided to explore the theme of reflections together, so off we went!
There are three observations I want to make about the experience of joining in with the group:
-Firstly, I realised that on my way to the Dragon Cafe, I did the typical thing that I always fall into when travelling from a to b. Head down, only looking around me out of necessity – tracing street signs to work out if I was going the right way, or looking left and right at roads to prevent being mown down, but basically ignoring everything and everyone around me. The deliberate act of going on a walk to take photos opened the possibility to see things. I was looking up at the skylines of the buildings, I was interested in the alleyways, and I was looking for the detail and the beauty of what was around me. This in itself is a rewarding outcome – its good to be appreciative and notice, and to question what surrounds us.
-Secondly, this experience was distinct because it was not an individual activity – it was something I was doing with others. The enthusiasm of the other members of the group had engulfed me before we had even left the dragon cafe as they talked about photos that they had previously taken and showed me the archive they were creating. While walking they showed me interesting shots I could try, and as I was using my camera phone, suggested playing with the settings to get different pictures. Sharing knowledge and skills on a practical level was one enjoyable element connected to doing it with others, but also one member of the group knew the area very well and hearing him talk about his life in association with the place meant I was gaining insight that I would never have got if I was doing the activity alone. And then aside from the specifics of the photography and the connection to Southwark there was just the pleasure of walking, talking, and getting to know people.
-Thirdly, I think the end results are pretty good! I didn’t completely stick to the ‘reflections’ brief but it is definitely an element in a lot of the photos. The credit for these goes to the co-ordinator, Liz, and the rest of the group who were the inspiration and guide. Have a look and see what you think……
Photo Walk date: 15 April 2013. Starting at 5ish.