North East Connected

City’s history and health at heart of photography exhibition


Fledgling photography professionals have created an exhibition responding to two very different Sunderland city-centre environments.

Reflecting on the rich history of The Antheneum Building, which played an important role in the development of culture, design and engineering in the region, and then looking towards future innovation in health research at the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute, Photography, Video and Digital Imaging students at the University of Sunderland hope their latest works demonstrated the power to communicate and inspire others through photography.

The exhibition was part of the students’ second-year photography module, ‘Sites for Practice’, in which they had to consider work that responded to the public space and audience they were working in.

Displaying their work in ‘Breeze Creatives’ art project space, at the recently refurbished Athenaeum building in Fawcett Street, some responded to its history and heritage, reflecting on subjects such as Joseph Swan’s lightbulb, while others reflected on the history of the city or made work that they thought would be interesting to the local community.

One student researched historic images of the city, then created new images of the same area to reflect how it has changed.

At the University’s Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute, a centre which addresses health inequalities through applied health research, students tapped into the institute’s work on social prescribing. This is an area which helps people improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare by connecting them to community services.

It was the second time that students have created work for the research institute. Some of this year’s cohort reflected nature to enhance a sense of peace and serenity within the institute.

Others responded to health practice, creating visual displays that reflected on personal or family experiences of treatment, or of its aftermath.

Helen McGhie, Senior Lecturer in Photography, said: “I am extremely proud of the second-year students, who have made innovative photographic projects to engage two different local audiences with valuable narratives.

“These two displays of work have demonstrated photography’s democratic power to communicate with and inspire others.”

Yitka Graham, Head of the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute and Professor of Health Services Research, said: “The students’ work truly reflects the ethos of the Institute. From exploring the healing properties of nature to illuminating the narratives of people who have experienced ill health and life-changing interventions, the photographs are honest , captivating and bring the Institute’s research to life.”

Jack McArdle, who exhibited at The Athenaeum, said: “Taking the first big steps from student to professional feels amazing. Being accepted and trusted within the space in such a historic and central location. I hope anyone from all walks of life will enter to not only enjoy the work created but possibly gain a better understanding of the subjects involved.

Lewis Graham, who exhibited in Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute, added: “Working at the Institute has been a great experience. It has allowed me to develop and display my exhibition in a real working environment, where people are going to interact with it every day.

“I think my photography work well in the space because Helen McArdle House works with social prescribing to improve people’s health and wellbeing; my work complements this because of its calming nature and allows the viewer to connect with nature. Hopefully they will also want to visit the places I have photographed, for themselves.”

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