IMAGEM - Introduction

Photography linking young people from Oporto and Bristol 2003-2004. To view credits click here

Jo Hansford, Photography Development Worker for Knowle West Media Centre, explains the project:

IMAGEM, the Portuguese word for “image”, is the name of a two-year creative media project culminating in a photography exchange between seven young people from Bristol, in the South West of England, and eight young people from twinned city, Oporto, in Northern Portugal.

Managed by Knowle West Media Centre in collaboration with Knowle West Youth Forum, Bristol, and the Escola de Bagium, Oporto, this project aimed to give the young participants the opportunity to expand their horizons, aspirations and hopes - to exchange ideas, develop new skills and confidence, and promote greater understanding between different cultures.

Young people who participated were members of the “Mouth of the South” newsletter group in Knowle West, and pupils of the school in Oporto. The partnership began in May 2002, with an initial visit by Knowle West Media Centre staff to meet up with organisations in Oporto.

I went with Sandra Manson, then trainee, to establish links with similar organisations, schools and young people, with a view to working collaboratively. We presented some of our work to local people, visited organisations and the university, and ran workshops on photography and newsletter writing in several schools. This visit was supported and hosted by the Bristol and Oporto Association (BOA), both here in Bristol and in Portugal.

This visit proved so fruitful in forging links that over the next six months KWMC was able to develop and plan the exchange project with Oporto and to obtain funding. In October 2003 seven young people from “Mouth of the South” accompanied by KWMC staff, visited Oporto, and in February 2004 eight Portuguese students from Escola De Bagium came to Bristol with their teachers.

Some of the young participants, aged 12-16 years, had never been abroad before – none of them had previously had the opportunity to meet their teenage counterparts in another country, or to find out about their way of life and culture. The Bristol participants were all young people from the Knowle West area in South Bristol, an area identified as needing greater opportunities and support for young people. This represented a new and logical expansion of our work at KWMC - using photography as a tool for individual and community development. I hoped that the exchange would provide exciting opportunities for the young people to build confidence and skills, at the same time feeding new ideas into our other projects at KWMC.

The theme of the photography was architecture; both cities feature interesting bridges and architectural features, with a combination of older buildings and more modern architecture. Oporto also boasts several internationally renowned architects, among them Alvaro Siza, and one of its famous bridges, the Ponte Luis, was built by Eiffel. The photographs we took of all the amazing structures link naturally with an interest in architecture already initiated at Knowle West. This comes through the “Archimedia” project currently taking place, which involves young people in the design and build of a new flagship media centre in the community. 

Both visits were great fun, varied and interesting, and went smoothly. In Oporto we stayed in a lovely youth hostel, and spent several days out and about with our Portuguese friends photographing the city, discovering and capturing its architecture and history. We also spent a day in the school, experiencing their daily life, sampling the food, and playing some traditional games.

For the Portuguese visit to Bristol our young people were keen to show them key features of the city; the Cathedral, College Green, Brandon Hill, Cabot Tower, Harbourside, Clifton Village and the Suspension Bridge. Equally important were the young peoples’ favourite places such as Broadmead and St Nicholas’ market, and our own area, Knowle West. A thick snowfall added excitement and fun for the last two days of the visit – especially for the Portuguese group, some of whom had never seen snow before.

Feedback from the fifteen young people who took part in this exchange validates the original thinking. Imagem gave participants a valuable opportunity to experience another culture in a real and creative way, thereby expanding their horizons and aspirations. Some of them have made lasting friendships, and all of them have, I hope, in some way or other, learned to think differently and more creatively about life.

The Imagem photographs are exhibited at the Architecture Centre, Narrow Quay, Bristol, from June 18th to July 18th, and then at Knowle West Health Park Walk-in Café, from July 18th till the end of August 2004.

You can see pictures documenting the planning processes, and the visits on the About pages, together with videos made by young people in Bristol and Oporto. In the Gallery each participant presents their individual creative journey through the two cities. The Resources include learning materials where you can find out more about the history, architecture, and food of both Bristol and Oporto, and try some practical activities.