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John Stiles

Photographer John Stiles at his exhibition, No Labels.

Looking beyond the labels

No Labels is a documentary photographic exhibition currently showing at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery. The intention of local photographer, John Stiles, is to show viewers the characters and personalities of some of the people who attend the Seaview Project, asking us to look beyond the labels and see the individuals. HOT’s Zelly Restorick went along to the exhibition and spoke to Stiles about his work.

Labels. I expect that we could all pretty much cover ourselves in Post-It Notes with a label written on each one – ones that we like, ones that we find uncomfortable, ones given to us by ourselves, ones given to us by other people or society. John Stiles’ aim with this exhibition is to challenge viewers to see beyond the labels that might be put on those people who are marginalised, ostracized and ignored in our town.

“We all too often ascribe labels to others,” Stiles says, “without really knowing too much about them.”

“Seaview is a lifeline.”

Len at Seaview

Len at Seaview.

For this exhibition, Stiles has photographed some of the people who attend Seaview for the support it offers them, along with the people who work there and those who volunteer, placing his impactful black and white portraits alongside one another, so that it is not clear which person is which.

“Homeless people or those on the periphery of society are no different to anyone else,” says Stiles. “Research by Shelter [the housing and homelessness charity] suggests that many of us are potentially just three pay cheques away from being without a home. It’s something that could happen to any of us.”

“Seaview is a godsend.”

FaceOne of the catalysts for the exhibition, he says, was reading about a project run by Dave Roels, who worked at a soup kitchen for the homeless. Roels organised a photographic exhibition to raise both funds and awareness, calling it The Forgotten People. Stiles, however, felt that people on the edge of society weren’t forgotten, not by those in their lives, and decided to organise his own exhibition, working in partnership with Seaview, where he’d had connections for many years.

“Each person is a unique individual,” he says. “I used to work as a problem solver, helping people to find a solution to their problems with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues, and although these were generic issues, no two people ever had the same story.”

“Seaview helped me to feel a part of things.”

One Day In The Life of

One Day In The Life Of.

Part of the exhibition is ‘A Day In The Life Of’, five photos of a person offering the viewer varied insights into their life.

“I studied documentary photography,” says Stiles, “and love the fact that the photos make the viewer really have to think and take an active role in the interpretation of what’s happening.”

“If it wasn’t for Seaview, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Established in 1985, the Seaview Project works with homeless and insecurely housed people (1,200 individuals last year), providing practical services for complex lives via a resource centre, a crisis and resettlement service and a health care programme. They exist for the relief of poverty, sickness and distress of persons in need.

“We respect the uniqueness of each individual and believe that warmth and support from one being to another can achieve positive change.”                             

The Seaview Project

The Seaview Project

The Seaview Project.

Want to do something to help out the Seaview Project? You could donate clean clothing, (especially good socks at this cold time of year), food and/or money, volunteer some time or skills, become a trustee or a Friend and encourage your employer or school to offer some support. Call Sue Burgess for more details on 01424 717980.

This article is dedicated to Len (see the photograph above), father of Matthew and a gentleman, who died last week.

 

No Labels, an exhibition by John Stiles, runs until 8 March 2014, including photographs, a fund-raising DVD, ‘A Day In The Life Of’ and a book of personal stories.

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Johns Place, Bohemia Road, Hastings, TN34 1ET. Call 01424 451052  or check out their website.

Seaview Project

Posted 18:01 Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 In: Photography

1 Comment

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  1. John Stiles

    Thanks for the write up Zelly. John

    Comment by John Stiles — Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 @ 16:56

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