Dean O'Brien's Blog

The importance of engaging with your subjects..

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Just over a year ago Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire programme (broadcast on 24th May 2011) showed how researchers, looking for information on the homeless in Coventry came across my blog posts and managed to make contact with Kervin Julien of homeless charity ‘Anesis Homeless Ministry’.  This enabled  them to include Kervin in their programme and resulted in a donation of £15,000 being made to the charity (although this was later returned).

Yes, this was to be quite a controversial episode which saw millionaire Sue Stone struggle to adapt to her surroundings.  Living within the financial constraints of Job Seekers Allowance was not for our Sue and viewers were treated to watching her tuck into a steak and blatantly refuse to adapt to living like those whose story she was trying to tell.  Sue totally missed the point and one only had to read the twitter feed to confirm what people were thinking whilst the programme was being broadcast.

Rather than knuckling down and ‘walking a mile in their shoes’ she found it hard to adapt.  This created a distance between her and those subjects she was trying to understand.  I know from working on my own projects (including the homeless featured in this programme) that we as photographers have to properly engage with our subjects in order for the project to have any degree of integrity.  This is what Sue lacked.  The ability to immerse herself.  To look at the world through her subjects eyes.  And as many stated on twitter….She was an #epicfail

To view the Secret Millionaire episode referred to in this post just click on the image below.


Written by Dean O'Brien

July 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

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