Len Grant set us a challenge to produce a piece of work that was good enough to win a commission titled ‘The Diversity of University Life’. My group consisted of Lucy Logan, Sara Lataiwesh and myself and we initially made a decision to focus on the different religious groups within the university. To begin the shooting process, we visited the Islamic prayer room next to Salford Crescent train station. It was extremely helpful to have Sara there to act as a mediator between Lucy and I and the girls that were praying. As Sara is a practicing Muslim, she knows the do’s and don’ts when entering a prayer room preventing Lucy or myself from causing any offence. For example, shoes have to be taken off before entering the prayer room, also we couldn’t directly stand in front of the girls as they were praying because that would put us in the way of Allah. Another factor that we did not consider was that males and females pray separately; the sexes cannot be mixed therefore because we did not have a male in our group, we could not enter the boys’ prayer room.
After completing the shoot and reviewing our photographs, we decided to research when other religious groups met and which had societies as part of the University. While searching through the different groups, we stumbled across LGBT society and changed our idea dramatically. Homosexuality and religion together is a hot topic recently as gay marriage was legalised in the UK on 28th March of this year which caused a stir with the Church. Also, because of growing up in a Christian family with a lot of gay friends, I have personally experienced the hate thrown from both sides. One apparently Christian group, The Westboro Baptist Church are known around the world for their extreme ideologies against gay people. Alongside this, many gay people have a very twisted and generalised view that the Church hate them, so they hate the Church. Since we had documented the Islamic faith already, I asked Sara if this was the same across all faiths and she agreed that there was definitely a boundary there that needed to be broken.
University makes it possible to knock down these boundaries and makes way for acceptance and equality. A student has very little control over who they will be put in student halls with, or who will be on their course so they are forced to get to know people from all walks of life. Seeing as we had very little time left and LGBT society were not meeting for another week or so, we decided to go out and find students who would act as same sex couples for the sake of this project. It was really difficult to build up the courage to ask people, especially boys, to hold hands and have their photograph taken. We were met with mixed reactions, some people willingly agreed, some people took a bit of persuading, some people laughed but declined and some people took offence. Eventually, we had enough photographs to fill the handmade book that we had planned on making.
A couple of days later we met to complete the project. We decided to title the book ‘ANONYMOUS’ as we thought that it didn’t matter who you were, if you came to university you would be accepted. We wanted our subjects to remain unidentified and our quotes to remain anonymous so viewers could make judgments before copying other peoples’. The first page of the book reflects the concept behind the photographs. The word ‘equality’ has been written in the ten most spoken languages from around the world to show that acceptance spreads across many different cultures and languages at university. Each photograph of a homosexual couple has been met with a photograph of a girl praying to Allah. The quotes used are from a range of sources and are there to provoke deeper thinking from the viewer as to why these people should be separated into categories. University is a tool that can be used to share opinions and beliefs that eventually build stronger characters for the future.