An exhibition of mindful photography opened on 15th November 2021 at three railway stations on Gloucestershire’s rail network. Gloucester, Stroud and Stonehouse stations now feature a display of stunning images which capture the history, wildlife and healing benefits of being by the river. Rail travellers, whether they be frazzled commuters, or tourists out to see the sights, will encounter images that encourage them to pause and take a new perspective on the world around them.
The photography featured in this new community exhibition was created by local Gloucestershire residents who took part in a series of mindful photography courses, run by Look Again. The sessions took place between lockdowns last summer and autumn, and enabled the artists to connect with nature in a powerful and thought-provoking way. They experienced a new way to boost mental health and wellbeing, using photography to bring clarity and presence in the moment.
Poster introducing the My Severn exhibition at Gloucester Station
Liam’s photography as part of the My Severn exhibition, displayed on the platform at Gloucester Railway Station. The participants’ photography can be seen at Gloucester, Stroud and Stonehouse stations.
Participants experienced huge wellbeing benefits from focusing all their attention on capturing thoughtful images of objects, places or people. Through the camera lens, they mindfully engaged with the heritage of the River Severn, explored historic collections in the National Waterways Museum, and discovered the wildlife of Alney Island nature reserve. One of the artists described their experience: “Water is the most beneficial way of doing mindfulness, the wind, light (and) sun can change the same patch of water.” Another commented: “In wide open spaces… you can lose yourself in a good way, in your environment… can be good for your mental health, you can really start to look at things in a different way.”
A poster explaining more about the My Severn exhibition at Gloucester Station.
The exhibitions at Gloucester, Stroud and Stonehouse railway stations celebrate the creativity of the artists involved, as well as the powerfully positive impact of projects such as this on mental wellbeing. The opening event at Gloucester Railway station saw people gathering on Platform One and was attended by the participants who were involved with the course, as well as representatives from Look Again, Unlocking the Severn, Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership, Cotswold Canals Connected, and Great Western Railway.
Participants and representatives from Unlocking the Severn, Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership and Great Western Railway celebrate the launch of the My Severn exhibition.
Ruth Davey, Look Again described her experience leading these courses: “We found that whatever our cultural background, faith, age, or health ‘My Severn’ united us in our common humanity through the story of Water. It was a very moving and powerful experience for us all and one that we want to share widely through this exhibition, at this time of increasing polarisation and divisiveness.”
Participants share their stories at the launch event. The artists spoke about what the My Severn project meant to them, and how they continue to be inspired in creative ways by the River Severn.
Reviewing the exhibition, Jason Leach, Programme Director commented: “It’s inspiring to see the images captured and gain an insight into how a new photography practice has helped participants change their own personal perspective in such challenging times.”
The exhibition will be available to view at Gloucester, Stroud and Stonehouse railway stations until early Spring 2022. You can also explore an online version of the exhibition at www.unlockingthesevern.co.uk/my-severn-gallery
‘Short Eared Owl and Rainbow’, By Paddy. ‘Another World’, by Faatimah.
The mindful photography courses were delivered by Look Again, and commissioned by Canal & River Trust, as part of their conservation and river engagement project Unlocking the Severn. Participants were referred into the project through arts and health charity Artlift, Gloucestershire Action for Refugee and Asylum Seekers, The Nelson Trust, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, relationships with the Gloucester Muslim community, and the Severn and Wye Recovery College. Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership CIC are hosting the exhibitions as part of their Cotswold Canals Connected community rail engagement activities linking Gloucester, Stroud and Stonehouse through community exhibitions that celebrate local place and the waterways.