I was quite apprehensive about visiting Longsight. A multicultural, diverse part of Manchester. I know the area well in a visual sense however my understanding of the people of this community is limited beyond the visual.
One of the intentions of my project is to generate a greater understanding of the communities of South Manchester and the main routs that facilitate the distance between Stockport and Manchester. Longsight is a key location however it is also the district I understand the least. It is a suburban area that isn’t the subject of gentrification although multicultural and diverse.
As I frequented the space I felt a sense of unease around my presence, I am unsure whether this was due to the way I looked or the colour of my skin. I didn’t feel welcome. I felt untrusted and a sense of suspicion around. Further factors may have impacted this such as the presence of my camera in or the current social distancing measures. However, I ambled around the shops and built up area, positioning myself as an observer of the local vernacular.
I was struck by the amount of fresh fruit stalls and the people shopping, ladies wearing head scarves and groups of males engaged in what seemed to be serious discussions, all in different languages.
Having scouted the area for twenty minutes or so I decided to approach people to ask if I could take some photographs. On each occasion I was met with an abrupt response of ‘no photograph’ or something to that effect. At points I felt attitudes towards me went beyond suspicion, venturing into the realm of active dislike.
When I returned home I begun to reflect on my experience and question my own perspective in addition to trying to identify with the perspectives of others about my presence. In wanting to further my understanding my reflections then moved away from specific events and I begun to research the idea of social construction and discourse. As a result I came to a conclusion that my experience did occur, but was it a truthful representation of Longsight or was it my own truth of visiting the area. Was it a truth or representation of realism at all? Burr (2003: p7) states
‘Social construction denies that our knowledge is a direct perception of reality. In fact it might be said that as a culture or society we construct our own versions of reality between us.’
Burr’s ideas, appear to advocate the abandonment of any opinions or conclusions i have made regarding this experience. In favour of a broader understanding of why I was there and what impact my presence may have had on others. In occupying this space my ability to experience the reality of this area and represent it is impossible.
I then begun to consider my reasons for being there and understand that my intention is to represent my own experience of someone who has spent a lifetime passing through the area. This leads to the conclusion that this space is used used in a number of ways beyond those that live and work there. My experience of this space is that of someone who passes through. I am not integrated within this community. Burr further states that there are multiple ways of seeing the world, therefore the result of this shoot may be used to reinforce my own perspective of being an ‘outsider’. A respectful outsider with a lack of understanding of how this community functions beyond the surface.
As a result of this shoot I was hoping to make some useful interactions with people and possible make some portraits however the lessons I learned are as useful as the work I have been making recently. I now possess a better understanding having visited this place.
Going forward, I need to consider how I will balance the representation of this place alongside the narrative I intend to pursue. How deep should I engage with this space? And in what context is it relevant?
Burr, V. (2003) Social Constructionism, Second Edition. Routledge, London.