In December 2019, Professor Hannah Thompson and Dr James Kent led a photography and Creative Audio Description workshop at the Espacio Altamira in Havana, Cuba funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. The workshop was the latest in a series of events that forms part of an ongoing project which has the aim of addressing specific United Nations sustainable development goals.
Professor Thompson reads a Braille sign in Havana. Photograph (c) James Kent.
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 (AD).
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 blind and partially-sighted 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.
Professor Thompson is currently leading a related project at Royal Holloway, which will give members of the University community the chance to make the famous Picture Gallery more accessible. Stafff and students have the chance to attend workshops through February and then to produce an Audio Description of one of the works from the collection. If you would like to learn more please contact the project assistant Emma Hughes (firstname.lastname@example.org).