‘One Lens, Countless Stories’: Some of the most important art you’ll see this year.


‘One Lens, Countless Stories’: Some of the most important art you’ll see this year.

As part of Migration Matters, The Art House is proud to be playing host to ‘One Lens, Countless Stories’ – an exhibition of hard hitting and emotional  images brought together by survivors of human trafficking.

This exhibition has been made possible by the work of the Sheffield based Snowdrop Project; it’s the first UK charity with the aim of providing long term support to victims of human trafficking and slavery. Currently the government only provides support for a short period of time.

From its formation six years ago – when it had only six clients – the charity now offers support to 62 people. You can find out more about who they are, what they do and the support you can offer here: https://snowdropproject.co.uk/

For ‘One Lens, Countless Stories’ nine clients attended a ten week photography course and were then asked to take photos which represented their lives and communicated their stories in a visual way to enable people to understand their experiences.

We talked to founder Lara Bundock about the project, the exhibition, and art’s response to human trafficking and slavery.

Lara: “The images communicate so much – they illustrate people’s past and present but also ideas for the future. They are also accompanied by text panels and these further help to communicate, first hand, the stories of real lives.

“The exhibition covers a broad emotional landscape – it’s insightful and hard but it’s also uplifting. If you were searching for themes then I’d maybe say words like honesty and resilience. But, really, what you get access to is the reality of the human tapestry, the reality of coming out of exploitation and then just suddenly being alone. From that point it’s about moving forwards to find identity and a sense of who you are.

“By taking part in the exhibition we wanted to produce something that would help people understand the trafficking / slavery journey but that would also show the recovery afterwards.

“Ultimately – putting a camera in these women’s hands is about giving them an opportunity to tell their story and about taking back control.

The Art House: Is all the work by survivors of trafficking and slavery?

Lara: No, the exhibition is in two parts – some is in The Art House café and the rest in the exhibition space. The work in the café is by a professional photographer and represents some of the barriers faced by our clients. But – in the exhibition space – all of that work is by our clients.

The Art House:  So, for people who have experienced these types of issues, does art still matter?

Lara: “Yes. For the participants in this exhibition, certainly. Because it offered a different kind of expression. There was no purpose as such – it was just a way to get out – emotionally, visually – whatever it was they wanted to get out. There were no hidden agendas or directions. It’s art in its purest form actually.

“One participant suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This is a result of the experiences she has been through. And she says that art gives her a place where all of her separate parts can communicate. Instances like that are incredibly important.”

The Art House: Is art engaging with the debate?

Lara: “Yes, I think so. Globally art has begun to engage in the subject and to raise its profile. Photography in particular has embraced the issue. And I would say that this exhibition does so as powerfully as any other you might find in a far larger gallery or by better known artists.”

The Art House: So people may say: ‘I know about this, I see it on the news, on the TV.’ Why should they come to the exhibition?

Lara: “You need to make time to see it because once you’ve seen these stories you can understand and tell those stories to others; you can’t see these stories and then just keep your eyes closed. This happens in our country, this happens in our city.

“I’m really keen to communicate that these are not just a bunch of photos hung on a wall masquerading as art. This is some of the most powerful work you’ll see in Sheffield this year.  This is the subject through the very eyes of those who have actually survived trafficking and exploitation. It’s an insight that you don’t normally see and it’s on for just three days. In Sheffield,  at The Art House.

“And I know The Art House strives to be about the power of art and creativity and the role of those things in our city but this exhibition is actually bigger than that – these aren’t important stories that need to be told in Sheffield, they’re important stories that need to be told everywhere.

“But, from the city’s point of view, the Sheffield connection is here too – all these participants are now making new lives in our city and Sheffield is central to their story and to their bravery in telling that story.

“This is your opportunity to be part of their audience and to begin to understand these subjects first-hand.”