Anthony Luvera’s pioneering project in collaboration with people experiencing homelessness in Birmingham.
Exhibition, Snow Hill Square, Birmingham, 14th September – 13th October 2022
CONSTRUCT is a pioneering new photography project from artist Anthony Luvera, commissioned by GRAIN Projects and presented in partnership with Colmore BID and SIFA Fireside. The public realm exhibition will feature 21 new Assisted Self-Portraits made in collaboration with people experiencing homelessness in Birmingham. Luvera is an internationally acclaimed artist and a leading practitioner in socially engaged practice and working with people experiencing homelessness. He began working with participants in the city, with the charity SIFA Fireside, in 2018, leading conversations and workshops which involved inviting people to make their own photographs and to think about representation and identity through portraiture.
Artist Anthony Luvera said: ‘CONSTRUCT is the progression of the ongoing work I have made with people experiencing homelessness around the UK since 2002. The way I work is socially engaged. That is, I spend time volunteering in support services developing relationships with the people with whom I work, inviting them to develop skills, to use equipment to record their experiences and the things they are interested in, and to co-create images with me. Over the years, I’ve collaborated with hundreds of individuals and through this process I’ve collated thousands of photographs, video, sound recordings, and other pieces of ephemera created by participants that express their points of view, and visualise experiences of some of the most marginalised people in society.’
CONSTRUCT was created between 2018 and 2022 with over 50 people experiencing homelessness in Birmingham, commissioned by GRAIN Projects. In the first year the artist spent time getting to know the staff and individuals associated with SIFA Fireside, a charity that supports homeless people in leading healthier and happier lives, by working in the kitchen and serving meals. He then invited people to take cameras away to capture their experiences, meeting with participants regularly to discuss their images and to record conversations. During the Covid pandemic and associated lockdowns, workshops and conversations were continued online. Luvera also invited participants to learn how to use digital medium format equipment, to create an Assisted Self-Portrait. To make an Assisted Self-Portrait, the artist meets regularly with the participant in locations that are significant to the individual. The final images for use in exhibition and publication are selected by the participant.
Luvera’s 21 portraits will be exhibited on a bespoke exhibition structure in Snow Hill Square and images made by the participants during the creative process will be displayed in Snow Hill Station.
A new publication, featuring the Assisted Self-Portraits, participant’s photographs, project documentary images and new writing will be launched on the 10th October, World Homelessness Day, at an event where homelessness in the city will be discussed by key stakeholders.
CONSTRUCT explores the lived experience of homelessness as well as representation. The project offers an authentic portrait of the city as well as a thought-provoking work of art.
Kate Bailey, Colmore BID Board Director and Chair of the Safe and Sound Working Group says: Homelessness, and the District’s response to it, has been a key piece of work for Colmore BID and we have worked with SIFA for many years to make sure that some of the most vulnerable are able to access the help and support that they need. Whilst this is important, so is our ability to express ourselves through art and culture. I’m proud that we have been able to support this project that allows people experiencing homelessness to explore photography, and then celebrate that work, publicly.
Dan Wakely, Interim CEO of SIFA Fireside says: It’s easy to forget that when it comes down to essential needs, it’s not just about food, clothes and shelter. The ability to express yourself creatively is integral to your identity and wellbeing, no matter your background or current situation. It’s been amazing to see our clients develop since this project began and to have their work and stories displayed in Snow Hill Square is a great way to say that this is their city. After all, Birmingham belongs to all of us.
CONSTRUCT is presented by Colmore BID and GRAIN Projects, working in partnership with SIFA Fireside. The project is generously supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery Awards for All, Birmingham City University and the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University.
For further information visit https://grainphotographyhub.co.uk/portfolio-type/anthony-luvera/
For further information, interviews, quotes and images contact:
Kelsey Dwyer, Colmore BID Kelsey.firstname.lastname@example.org
Robb Sheppard, SIFA Fireside email@example.com
Nicola Shipley, GRAIN Projects Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Luvera is an Australian artist, writer and educator based in the UK. He has worked extensively with people who have experienced homelessness. Many of these projects use his “assisted self-portrait” methodology, where the subject of the photograph, assisted by Luvera, makes and selects the pictures. Stories from Gilded Pavements, was displayed in 12 central London Underground stations in 2005, part of Art on the Underground. Agency, a commission for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, involved participants documenting their experiences and places in the city of significance to them, and the creation of assisted self-portraits. In another ongoing project on homelessness, Luvera and Gerald Mclaverty have conducted iterations of their Frequently Asked Questions. This project involves sending basic questions to councils across the UK, asking how to access systems of care for people experiencing homelessness. Luvera has also worked in Brighton and Belfast with people experiencing homelessness. His photographic work has been exhibited widely in galleries, public spaces and festivals, including Tate Liverpool, The Gallery at Foyles, the British Museum, London Underground’s Art on the Underground, National Portrait Gallery London, Belfast Exposed Photography, Australian Centre for Photography, PhotoIreland, Malmö Fotobiennal, Goa International Photography Festival, and Les Rencontres D’Arles Photographie. His writing has appeared in a range of publications including Photography and Culture, Visual Studies, Photoworks, Source, and Photographies. Luvera is Associate Professor of Photography in the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University, and editor of Photography For Whom?, a periodical about socially engaged photography. He is Chair of the Education Committee at the Royal Photographic Society and has designed education and mentorship programmes, facilitated workshops, and given lectures for the public education departments of National Portrait Gallery, Tate, Magnum, Royal Academy of Arts, The Photographers’ Gallery, Photofusion, Barbican Art Gallery, and community photography projects across the UK. www.luvera.com
GRAIN Projects is a West Midlands based arts organisation specialising in contemporary photography. GRAIN provides a platform, hub and network for photography and is involved in commissioning new ambitious work, curating exhibitions, developing projects that are collaborative and focused on community engagement and delivering a range of high quality artist development and support programmes. GRAIN is a not for profit CIC supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University. www.grainphotographyhub.co.uk
Colmore BID is a Business Improvement District (BID) established to project manage improvements and services to the business quarter of Birmingham. They invest in projects, services and intiatives which improve the environment of the BID area. They are principally financed through a 1.5% levy on rateable value and are a not for profit democratically elected company. Colmore BID have supported arts and cultural projects in their area for many years and are also proactive in their support of people experiencing homelessness. www.colmorebusinessdistrict.com
SIFA Fireside is a Birmingham based charity that supports clients in their recovery from the effects of homelessness. From essential services such as the Adult Support Hub, Tenancy Support Services and a Drop In Centre SIFA support people to rebuild their lives with dignity and in safety. They enable inclusion, engagement and equal access to services for those individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and influence the strategic development of the homelessness agenda in local and national arenas. www.sifafireside.co.uk