The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Moving Stories

There is no "us and them" – there is only us, in all our exquisite diversity.

15 people who have made Dumfries & Galloway their home

But in an age when hostility against the "other" is on the rise, it is more important than ever to reconnect to our ability to empathise, and realise "them" are just "us" in different packaging.

Trump, Brexit, the echo-chamber effect created by social (and unsocial) media: the politics on both sides of the Atlantic over the last couple of years has promoted fear, xenophobia and racism. Sometimes it's felt like the past 50 years of striving towards equality and a better humanity has been eroded at a frightening pace.

Under these circumstances it's very easy to feel powerless. I can vote once every few years, but is that really it? I'm only a photographer, not a rich and powerful media magnate.

What I can do, however, is lend my voice to the many others that challenge this way of viewing the world.

This idea led me to meeting up with Moxie DePaulitte, visionary and founder of MOOL (Massive Outpouring of Love) – an organisation dedicated to helping refugees, asylum seekers and the displaced, and promoting human kindness at every turn.

Portrait photography has the power to allow us to look at faces and examine the similarities and differences, without worrying about someone being embarrassed by us staring at them. And when we are given that opportunity to really study the face in front of us, it helps reconnect us to our humanity – to identify and empathise with the person who occupies it.

My initial idea was to photograph refugees that had been resettled in the area, to re-humanise a set of people who are regularly vilified in the press, despite the horrors many of them have been through.

Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that many of the refugees, very understandably, would be reluctant to have their faces photographed and put out in the public domain. In an atmosphere of press hostility, not to mention concern for family members still in their countries of origin, keeping a low profile was a high priority.

However, as Moxie and I started exploring the concepts, the idea expanded out to the wider notion of migration and why anyone leaves the place they grew up and resettle in a place much less familiar.

There are so many reasons – voluntarily, involuntary, running from, running to, family matters, work opportunities, fear, love – in fact no two stories are identical.

So now we looked at the idea of interviewing people who have moved to this area – be it from the other side of the country or the other side of the world – and creating a soundscape to go along with the photos.

As the word went out we were looking for people to take part in the "Moving Stories" project, Lucy Renwick got in touch with the idea to compose several pieces of music, based on the themes and comments from the interviews. These could then be performed by a choir of volunteers while the photos were projected in the background.

Delighted by this chance to expand the project further, Lucy came on board and began writing the songs. Then came the process of finding people to create a choir, and Kate Howard, the musical director of the Cairn Chorus was brought in to help.

Rehearsal at the Theatre Royal

Behind all this, MOOL treasurer, Jay Rubinstein, tirelessly organised, arranged, and made things happen.

During Refugee Week (next week), there will be 3 performances of Moving Stories:
Tuesday 19th June – Theatre Royal, Dumfries – 7.30pm
Friday 22nd June – The Print Room, Wigtown – 7.30pm
Saturday 23rd June – Cresset Hall, Loch Arthur – 7.30pm

Tickets are £10/£6 on the door

It would be wonderful if you could make it along to any of them.


Mary Smith said...

What an amazing project, Kim.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Mary :)

Pat said...

A fantastic idea which - like Topsy just growed and growed. I'd love to see the finished product but alas can't. All best wishes for a resounding success which will go on and on.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Pat :)

viji suresh said...


Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Viji :)

daisyfae said...

Back in the 'sphere, and catching up, i'm delighted to find this post. It's really hard to hate up close, and using your camera, and music, and community, to create that "close" is a great way to start taking back the conversation...

Kim Ayres said...

Welcome back, Daisyfae :)
It was great to be part of a team to create something bigger than I could have done on my own.

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