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Social work student encourages photography in rehab

CRI St Thomas Fund resident Martin Parsons' photo of a bench at Brighton Marina where he first slept rough.

An exhibition in Hove of photographs by people tackling drug and alcohol problems was the brainchild of a University of Sussex MA social work student.

The photographs, which were taken by residents of charity CRI’s St Thomas Fund rehabilitation facility in Cromwell Road and tell the story of their individual journeys to recovery, featured in the annual Artists Open Houses events this month.

Social work student Emma Fincham-Siley, an amateur photographer on placement at the rehabilitation project, encouraged service users to identify locations throughout Sussex that were of significance to their recovery or that they found particularly inspiring.

Emma said: “I am overwhelmed by the residents’ artwork and the images are powerful, inspiring and they all hold personal meaning to the artists.

“The levels of photographs the artists have selected to exhibit are truly wonderful and represent part of the individual’s recovery journey, however big or small that might be.”

Martin Parsons, who been homeless intermittently over the last 15 years, is one of the residents at CRI St Thomas Fund whose photography featured in the exhibition.

He described his photo of a bench at Brighton Marina, where he first slept rough because his drinking had got out of control: “It meant a lot and brought back a lot of memories.

“It makes me think that I was just that low and down and out. I can’t imagine being there again. It shows how desperate I was.”

He recalled: “I was frightened, but I did think ‘my god if I can get through this, I can do anything’.”

Mr Parsons, who hopes to move out of rehab in the coming weeks to start a college course, added: “I have not done creative photography before, but I think being creative can give you a sense of focus, purpose and pride in what you can achieve.”

As for Emma, whose background was previously with children and young people, drug and alcohol rehabilitation was a new and “eye-opening” area of work “but one I’ve absolutely loved from the beginning”.

She said: “The photos will be displayed again for sure because they’re of a great quality and people are keen to see them.”

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Posted on behalf of: School of Education and Social Work
Last updated: Friday, 31 May 2013

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