Images & Words workshop in Havana, Cuba

This post was written by Dr. James Kent and Professor Hannah Thompson

In December 2019, Prof Hannah Thompson and Dr James Kent led a GCRF-funded photography and creative audio-description workshop at the Espacio Altamira in Havana, Cuba. The workshop was the latest in a series of events that forms part an ongoing project which has the aim of addressing specific United Nations sustainable development goals. The project brings together British and Cuban experts, researchers and practitioners whose work involves curatorial and photographic practice. At the event in Havana, Thompson and Kent worked collaboratively with representatives from the Universidad de La Habana, the Universidad de las Artes (ISA), the Fototeca de Cuba, as well as ISA students and the Cuban photographers Raúl Cañibano, Arien “Chang” Castán and Leysis Quesada Vera. Participants explored ways of thinking creatively about producing, curating and talking about photographic images, exhibitions and creative audio description.

Creative AD represents an opportunity to think beyond the confines of traditional AD (narration of artworks that is typically created after their production and offered to [partially] blind people either through live tours or via a headset from the perspective of a neutral, sighted viewer). Creative AD also encourages more personal responses to artworks that are at the same time collaborative, participatory and immersive. Participants at the workshop in Havana talked passionately about photography and had an opportunity to offer their own Creative Audio Descriptions of the images presented by the photographers in attendance. Some talked through their ideas and wrote creative descriptions of the images whereas others responded in different ways (writing poetry, for instance) and the results were at the same time captivating, informative and moving.

The wider aim of this project is to design a plan for the delivery of school photography workshops that would ultimately impact positively on the personal and social wellbeing of Cuban school children, socio-economically marginalised groups and disabled people on the island.

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