'There will be another day': Why children as young as 10 have been taking photos to support their mental health

·4-min read

Watch: Show And Tell - Conveying The Emotions Of Young Photographers

Black inky liquid spills carelessly onto a floor in a striking image called Half Empty. An anguished face cries out in a stark monochrome portrait simply called Anger.

Meanwhile, clear bright sunshine seeps through the naked branches of trees in a beautiful image called Hopeful.

These are just three of the powerful images submitted to an exciting new photography project – Show and Tell – conveying the emotions of photographers over the course of this uniquely challenging year.

Perhaps most incredible is that the talented artists behind each lens are all under 18 years old.

Read more: 'Get snapping': Why Rankin wants children to take photos to improve their mental health

“We have been blown away by the standard of entries,” says Steve Wallington, co-founder of The Photography Movement, the non-profit making organisation behind the project.

“To think that some of these children are as young as 10 years old is incredible.

“They’re such intelligent images and raise some thought-provoking questions. We’ve been amazed by the diversity of emotions behind each one – anguish, hope, depression – all the words you’d expect to hear throughout this year.

“These kids aren’t just taking any old pictures with their iPhones but really thinking about the shots and the emotions behind them.”

A new photography project called Show And Tell spotlights mental health in the young by asking, 'How are you feeling?' (The Photography Movement)
A new photography project called 'Show and Tell' spotlights mental health in the young by asking, "How are you feeling?" (The Photography Movement)

The project was launched in September to encourage youngsters to use photography as a powerful tool to support their mental health during this uniquely challenging year.

World-leading photographers have created online workshop films that teach children how to express their emotions through the camera.

The response has been remarkable. Boxer Tyson Fury, who has documented his own struggles with mental health, has supported the project.

Now the organisers hope even more children will submit entries before the 10 January deadline for inclusion in a national exhibition judged, amongst others, by world-famous photographer Rankin.

Teachers who have been running the projects in their schools have been equally impressed by the results.

Read more: 'I wouldn’t be here today': How a camera helped one photographer overcome a difficult childhood

“You would not believe the impact [the project] has had,” says Jennii Marker, a teacher at Green School for Boys in west London.

“One of my students in particular is very lacking in confidence overall and he absolutely lit up when Daniel [Regan, one of the photographers leading the workshops] was commenting on his photographs. This is a student who really struggles at school and has a challenging life overall. For him to receive some positive attention for his creativity is hugely powerful.

“But all the students enjoyed participating. Having the motivation of working towards an exhibition was a really important factor. The students were reluctant at first to express their emotions, but the project was clear and inclusive and they responded well to the initial videos.

“They are keen to improve on their work, they were thrilled to be featured in the feedback videos and are working hard to create work that might be considered for the exhibition. This project means a lot to us all and we very much appreciate having the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Two of the 58 children from Primrose Hill Primary School in London who have taken part in 'Show and Tell'. (The Photography Movement)
Two of the 58 children from Primrose Hill Primary School in London who have taken part in 'Show and Tell'. (The Photography Movement)

Similarly, Robin Warren, headteacher of Primrose Hill Primary School in north London, says the 58 children who have taken part in the project have benefited hugely from it.

“I knew my children would produce quality work, but I have also been blown away by their images and the creativity and sophistication they have shown at the age of 11,” he says. “Their ‘how are you feeling’ work has really impressed me and the team.

“The children were able to select an emotion and visualise these very creatively in multiple ways. To hear them articulating their reasons was quite something, given their age.

“When reflecting about their experiences of lockdown, the children could describe how things were for them and what they missed, but alongside this, is a real sense of optimism in returning to school and for their worlds to become normal again.

“The children are really motivated by the project. They have developed a keen interest in photography and are all interested in learning more about photography in the future.”

And the future is looking bright. The youngster who captured the striking tree image called ‘Hopeful’ was only too happy to explain the emotions behind her shot.

“There will be another day,” she says. “We will get another chance to do all the things we’ve missed out on during lockdown.”

Watch: Photographer Daniel Regan reveals creative exercises to inspire children

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