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Photography? Picture this!

July 05 2015
Getting access to a photography course has helped a group of young men living in a hostel kickstart creative ambitions

While Liam Gayle never lived on the street, the story of how he ended up without a home strikes a chord in these times of housing shortages and ever-increasing rent prices. “I needed somewhere to stay because the amount of money I was getting wasn’t enough for the rent on my own place,” he explains. His local council sent him to North London YMCA.

And it was there, he found social project Accumul8, which aims to get residents into creative courses and help them develop skills and find future employment. The idea is kind of cool; the group of young people aged 16–25 were supported to make jams and chutneys (made with fruit and veg donated by locals) which in turn were sold to fund photography courses at the Ravensbourne College. (see 'Young people fund exhibit', June 2014)

Liam says that the photography course was of particular interest to him because of his background in the creative industries. “I’m an artist and it’s another form of art that is close enough in some parts to what I do, so I thought it might be a good area to look at,” he explains.

Another YMCA resident, Richard Ganyata, who’s taken part in the photography course, found himself on the street after an argument with his mother following his arrival in London from Zimbabwe in 2012. “I reported my mum to the police and that’s when I went and slept on benches. She kicked me out of the house.” A friend from the amateur Rugby club Richard played for, the Saracens, suggested he seek help from the Barnet Council and he too ended up at North London YMCA. He was interested in photography before hearing about Accumul8, but hadn’t really considered it as a career path. Now he’s glad he gave it a go.

Now they’ve completed the photography course, both men want to look at applying the skills they’ve learnt in future employment. “I just wanted to get qualifications and do something with my life,” says Richard. Liam agrees, adding that before he moved to the YMCA he’d found it difficult to get involved in creative courses. “It was a struggle to get [access] to stuff like this. As far as music goes I didn’t have the facility or the know-how or connections to pursue anything along those lines.” He says if it wasn’t for the YMCA he would never have taken a creative course.

Recently, both men have been involved with a photography exhibition organised by Accumul8 which includes pieces of their work. Both say they photographed people or landscapes due to certain things that caught their eye, such as light. “When I see something I capture it because in that moment, to me, it’s beautiful,” explains Liam. He says that what he photographs speaks to him because of his background. “It’s a juxtaposition of my appearance or how my life has been. I appreciate serenity and peace… and that is what I tend to look for in my pictures. I like a lot of space, so people can take in what’s in the photo.”

Liam and Richard still currently reside at the North London YMCA, but both men have big ambitions for their future and want to use the skills they’ve learnt. “I want to be famous,” laugh Richard while a thoughtful Liam says he’d like to do another exhibition. “I’ve had another idea of something I’d like to put together and I would like to perform on film, but I’m not opposed to stage acting either. Most of all I feel like I’m going somewhere in my career and life, though.”

Find out more: and check The Pavement's arts section