Part of the Artist in Residency role is to work with external groups at the museum. In December, to coincide with the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition, I was given the opportunity to work with a group from Opening Doors on a wet collodion photography project.
Opening Doors is a group of older LGBT individuals who meet regularly in London and participate in a multitude of activities from film screenings and museum visits through to walking tours and dances.
Nine people from their Out in Art group spent three days with me exploring the museum, playing with photography and learning more about Victorian photographic processes. One of the most moving parts of the time together was when each person brought in and talked about an object which had personal significance to them. I was unprepared for how generous the group would be in sharing some of their histories.
On the last day together we went over to Four Doors, a photography studio in Bethnal Green. With the help of Almudena Romero, we took portraits of each of the group members onto tin plates and developed these in the dark rooms at the studio. This wet collodian process was used by Julia Margaret Cameron and produces a very specific, beautiful type of image.
Elderly isolation is a problem. According to the Opening Doors website, older LGBT people are three times more likely to be single and live on their own than their heterosexual counterparts and are more likely to be estranged from their families.
In contrast, this very energetic, bright, engaged group kept me on my toes. Whilst I expected the group to do great work, I was unprepared for how much energy and what great social lives they had.
We plan to show the finished images at the V&A on the 6th February to tie in with the National Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History taking place at the museum.
Images by Luis Martin Munoz.