Using photography to engage and inspire young people in Solihull

Ever since I discovered ecology and conservation at University I knew I wanted to pursue this as a career. I was therefore delighted to get a job with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust as a youth engagement officer. This feeling of delight was tinged with a slight sadness that I would be leaving the Great Fen, where I had spent so many magical hours as a Young Champion photographing the wildlife there. I did not want my connection with 2020VISION to end and even though I didn’t know how. Little did I know that my new job would offer me the perfect opportunity to do just this and spread 2020VISION’s message to the wider world!

The project that I have been working on, titled Living Roots: Open Spaces, is a one year project funded by the North Solihull Regeneration Partnership. It aims to engage young people from the North Solihull area by introducing them to a wide range of skills relating to conservation, art and media production. They will use these skills to help improve some of their local parks for the wildlife and community that use them. There is a rising awareness that many young people in the UK are suffering from ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’, which is perfectly summarised in the National Trust’s report ‘Natural Childhood’ by Richard Louv who says: “For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.” It is this disconnection between young people and the natural world that the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, through projects like mine, aims to repair.

Upon starting this new project I was acutely aware that the aims of my project were ones also shared by 2020VISION, which also aims to address ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ by communicating the link between habitat restoration and our own wellbeing through film and photography. Combine this with my passion for wildlife and the equipment that the Trust already had, it made perfect sense to start working with groups of young people on film and photography projects and so I got in touch with local schools and youth centres to arrange for groups of young people to come out to their local parks with me to take photographs and film the wildlife that is found there.

Over the past 3 months I have worked with 35 young people, ranging from 13 to 18 years old and of varying capabilities. With each group I started by introducing them to wildlife photography and photographic principles. This is where 2020VISION came in; I would use it to show them how to not only take brilliant photos but also how photos can be used to convey messages and inspire others to get outdoors. I then took them on a ‘discovery’ walk round their local park so that they could see the wildlife and plan their films and photos. After this it was down to the young people to focus on capturing some inspiring photos and film of their local parks and local wildlife; which they all did brilliantly! The photos and film that the groups obtained surpassed my expectations and from the smiles on the faces of the young people involved you could tell the project was a success.

The next stage of the project is to put on a photo exhibition in the local community using the young people’s photos to showcase their brilliant work and to encourage more people from the community to visit their local green spaces and think about what the natural world means to them. I’ve learnt that photography is a great way of achieving this is as when you put a camera in a person’s hands they immediately view the world around them differently. Instead of seeing a field of grass they see a field filled with wonderful wildlife in a range of shapes, colours and textures all waiting to be captured and shown to other people.

The Living Roots: Open Spaces project is taking place right now and you can read more about how it is getting young people outdoors on the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s youth engagement blog:

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3 Responses to Using photography to engage and inspire young people in Solihull

  1. Pingback: Inspiring young people together: Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and 2020VISION | Living Roots

  2. Chris Gomersall says:

    Excellent! Pleased to see that you’ve been able to put your experience with us to good use.

  3. Simon Phelps says:

    Thanks Chris, glad you like it. I am pleased to have been able to use 2020VISION in my work to hopefully inspire young people!

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