Photography, creativity and a journey through recovery.


We recently met up with Michelle who was one of the contributors to an addaction Digital Photography Project at Access Space.

Michelle had previously been a drug user and has gone through a recovery programme – her participation on this photography course was part of her ongoing journey of recovery.  We talked to her about why creativity was important in where she was on this journey right now.

“Before rehab I didn’t see myself as creative at all, ‘ said Michelle, “as I just thought of art as just like other school subjects – just about pressure and attainment.  “But, since school, I had done bits of photography and when I saw a poster for a 13 week digital photography course with Addaction I thought I’d give it a go.  The course included learning how to use a camera, still life lessons, trips out and a digital darkroom group.”

The course was led by Michelle Dutta, the artist in residence at Access Space.  Michelle previous knowledge of photography quickly enabled her to take on a role within the group helping others with understanding subjects such as light, composition and camera settings.  “The course was good for me on so many levels,” said Michelle:” I liked that it was alongside people who I felt understood me. It was ‘play’ but it was also very focused and encouraged me to stay the course to complete it.

“I don’t necessarily feel I’ve completed much in my life so even that completion was a big thing for me. Taking and processing the images gave me a sense of validation – that I was making a mark in the world, my mark.  At the end of it I was (and still am) very proud of what I accomplished. and now I have a sense of ongoing excitement about photography. Its been really trans-formative for me”.

“In the past – and I think its really important to say this – art didn’t always speak to me because it can sometimes act as if it has ‘gatekeepers,” as if its only open to certain people. and I really think that using art to exclude is so not what art is about; it should be about inclusion not exclusion whatever your background or history, art needs to open its arms to you.  Because – when its done well – like on this course or by Sheffield in general ( Michelle is originally from Lancashire) art is an amazing, healing thing.  Just doing this course and getting out taking photos reminded me that art is beneficial and healing and brings incredible life enrichment. I was there being ”in the moment’ mixing with others with a sense of play and finishing with a terrific sense of achievement. What else can offer all that?”

Art House: Do you feel that your time in recovery and rehab have brought attributes to the photography process?

Yes. I think that often people with a history of drug use can sort of freeze their development at the point that they start to be addicted to drugs. but life is really about evolving and moving on and art let’s you do this.  So I think that photography ( and the process of the course) let me take the discipline and resilience I’d developed in recovery and channel them positively into something tangible.

Art House: And Sheffield as a place to evolve, to be creative?

“Its a great place; there’s always stuff happening and its very accessible. The street art scene in particular is great and without any of the more traditional art snobbery I mentioned earlier.  My favourite places and things are The Millennium Gallery, Theatre Deli, Access Space and festivals like the AlgoMech one”.

Art House: As we’ll post some images can you tell us a bit about any themes you think run through your photography?

“I like stories and exploring interactions in the natural environment. There are concerns around the climate and the way humans interact with it. but its not all doom and gloom – because I think sometimes we interact with it in a really joyous way”.

Art House: 3 hashtags to describe the work?

#recovery  #selfdiscovery  #collaboration.

Find out more about addaction and the work they do here: