Creative project gives women at HMP Polmont an insight into photography

Touching images developed by participants under the guidance of Edinburgh Napier students

Date posted

9 October 2019

16:20

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and that age-old adage is never more true for the photographers behind this suite of touching images. 

These emotional photographs are the result of a creative project between a group of women serving sentences at HMP & YOI Polmont and two Edinburgh Napier photography students. 

Under the guidance of third year students Magnus Kermack and Jenny Spence, the women have spent time developing a range of photographic techniques, gaining an insight into many aspects of photography including technical instruction, editing and Photoshop, layout, framing, design and lighting. 

The women have put this new found knowledge to use by developing a suite of their own photographs based on a certain theme. 

Many chose to focus on family and relationships in their final pieces, with themes including the bond that exists between mothers and their children though separated, self-harm and the meaning of relationships without contact/touch.

The project ran from January to May this year, with the finishing touches recently applied to the final suite of photographs.  

Fife College holds the national Learning and Skills contract across all 13 publicly-owned prisons in Scotland, which includes the provision at HMP & YOI Polmont. This project was the first year that Edinburgh Napier students have worked with female offenders within the facility.

Touching images from the project...


Lindsay Morgan, Edinburgh Napier’s School of Arts and Creative Industries’ placement co-ordinator, said: “We’ve been working with the Scottish Prison Service and its education provider, Fife College, for over three years delivering peer-to-peer creative learning projects in photography and film. This model creates an environment where our students develop pedagogical and project management skills whilst enhancing their creative practice. The outcomes produced by learners at HMP Polmont continue to impress and inspire year after year having gained recognition from the Herald Higher Education Awards and Koestler Arts.

“The whole team who works hard on this collaboration should feel very proud, in particular the students who led the project and the participants.”

Zaria Sleith, Fife College tutor and former Edinburgh Napier student, said: “Before I commenced my placement as an Edinburgh Napier student I would not have said this would lead to working for Fife College at HMP YOI Polmont as a tutor. Having completed the placement process myself, I enjoy sharing my experience with the new projects and students. The work produced by both the students and learners has been fantastic and I am very proud to continue to be part of the project.” 

Neil McGaw, Learning Centre team leader, said: “The most recent photography project has been a success with inspiring images being produced. It is great to see the progress of both the learners at Polmont and the students from Edinburgh Napier as the project progressed. This time, the themes covered allowed the learners to have a comfortable and positive outlet to express themselves – a success all round.”

Previous projects include TV and photography students working with a group of six male learners who produced a film and series of photographs that reflected on their time within the establishment. 

Programme leader for BA (Hons) Film at Edinburgh Napier, Paul Gray, also worked with four females who had previously served sentences at HMP & YOI Polmont to bring their stories to life in a powerful short film. 

‘On the Outside’ sees four actors recreate the stories of the four women as the characters complete a car journey through Edinburgh. Throughout the journey, they reflect on past life choices and look ahead to the future. 

More information on the University’s partnership with Scottish Prison Service and Fife College can be found here.