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Walthamstow snapper flies flag for British photographers
Walthamstow photographer Mark Burton has been selected to represent the UK in an exhibition to celebrate the European Year of Volunteering.
Mark was featured in Freetime last month with his series of photos Guests And Volunteers, taken at the Crisis charity shelter in London during Christmas.
One of the images from the series was hand-picked by Simon Baker, curator of photography and international art at Tate Modern, to appear in the show, Active Witness, alongside the work of 26 other photographers representing each country in the European Union.
“It was a great honour to represent the UK and I was delighted to be included,“ says Mark. “It was an extra privilege to take part in an artist talk with Dana Popa, Paulo Nunes dos Santos and Simon Baker. Dana and Paulo are internationally recognised photographers and Simon is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary photography.“
Mark’s photo depicts a volunteer sat next to a guest at Crisis’ Christmas shelter. With all identifying tags removed the viewer struggles to determine who is who.
“I felt that photographs of homeless people too often depict them looking desperate in a doorway or begging on the street. It’s very stereotypical and one dimensional and doesn’t tell you a lot,“ explains the 40-year-old.
“In this series it’s not clear who is who. I wanted to create an ambiguity to prompt the viewer to question their perceptions of homelessness. Anybody can become homeless, it doesn’t take a lot to end up on the streets.“
The participating photographers come from a range of backgrounds, including photojournalism, fine art and documentary practice, and the selected works cover a range of subjects including homelessness, displaced populations, social care, rehabilitation and disaster relief. While many of the images relate directly to issues within the European Union, in some cases photographers have travelled to sites around the world to depict critical events and situations.
“Something that made the exhibition really special is that James Hayden, one of volunteers from my photograph, was able to come to the opening,“ says Mark. “At the end of the night we were both interviewed by EuroNews TV which was a surreal end to an enjoyable evening.
“However, the most important thing is that the exhibition celebrates the dedication of volunteers from all around the world. They do brilliant work year after year, and without their care and efforts many people in vulnerable situations would have limited support and help.“
Active Witness is at the 12 Star Gallery, Europe House, Smith Square, Westminster until September 9.