Sustainable Prospects – Aftercare
One important aspect of the project is to ensure that my volunteers are ok throughout the whole process and beyond the photo shoot.
Talking and being honest about the mask you hide behind can have negative effects, as often the participants are silent about these things and do not talk about them. I want to make sure that everyone who has taken part is doing ok.
During the shoot, we talk about issues. I always start the session explaining what I intend to do. I talk through my motivations and share stories of what I hide behind. The volunteers are fully aware that they can stop at any point. We discuss the paperwork that gets filled in. Each person is invited to modify the image release document as they wish. I always explain that a blog post will be written and published on my blog and that the images will form part of a portfolio (and this may also be online as part of my submission to university).
The hardest part of the session is always when we shoot the unmasked person. I am very aware that I do not want my participants to go to a place that they don’t want to or is too difficult to go to. I offer an alternative of placing their head in their hands so that we can’t see their face. For some, we have started there and moved on to get amazingly powerful shots.
The unmasked shoot is kept to an absolute minimum length of time. However, for some of my volunteers, they have needed time to talk, so I let them. I don’t shoot them all the time. It is important to listen to what they are saying as well as record the emotion. If I shot all the time, I would be nothing more than a voyeur (in my mind) and would not connect as well as I have done with everyone. The talking is part of the process.
After the shoot, there is always time for a chat and a cuppa.
Once I have got home, I always message everyone to thank them for taking part and to check they are ok. I edit the images and send them their ‘happy’ pictures (as I call them). These are the images of themselves that they show the world every day.
Each volunteer is offered their triptych image if they want it. I send mine first so that they know what to expect. In every case, they have wanted to see it. Each person has commented how powerful the image is. Some have asked if they can share it with friends.
Once the blog post is written, I publish it to my blog only and do not share it in any other place (my normal blog posts are shared to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). I then message the volunteer with a message along the lines “Here is the link to your blog post from our shoot. This is only on my blog and has not been shared on any other site. Please let me know if anything needs changing. I am hoping that we can raise awareness and maybe money for the charities I have mentioned. You are free to share the link if you want to. Thank you so so much for being part of the project – we are going to help so many people.” Each person has been happy with their posts so far and several have been shared with charities, Facebook friends, and fellow sufferers. This sharing has been the choice of the volunteer and not me. Initially, I made no comment about the volunteers being able to share the blog post, but I was asked several times if they could. I find this overwhelming, as I am telling their story in the posts and not mine. They have ownership over their own stories, I have just written them up as the collaborator. Yet, they still feel compelled to seek my permission to share. The volunteers are truly amazing people.
Each person has been happy with their posts so far and several have been shared with charities, Facebook friends, and fellow sufferers. This sharing has been the choice of the volunteer and not me. Initially, I made no mention of the volunteers being able to share the blog post, but I was asked several times if they could. I find this overwhelming, as I am telling their story in the posts and not mine. They have ownership over their own stories, I have just written them up as the collaborator. Yet, they still feel compelled to seek my permission to share. The volunteers are truly amazing people.
I check with the participants at each stage of the process. This is despite having fully signed up and agreed image release contracts in place. I want to make sure that each person is still happy with how the work is disseminated.
I will continue to check on how my participants are doing as time moves on with messages and support. They will be kept in the loop at all stages of the project.
And my aftercare? For me, hearing the stories and seeing everyone express themselves is special. I take comfort in them liking the images and, in some cases, wanting to share them. If we can raise awareness and increase acceptance of various issues, then this project will be a success.