Portrait Painting

Portraits of connectedness

In our experience of working with isolated older adults, a number of factors recur with notable regularity. Chief amongst them is a deep-rooted desire to be heard and to connect. People frequently tell us “no one understands me” and with that, there often comes a sense of frustration. Following on from our Happy Hub experiment, we are supporting talented photographer, Charisse Kenion, to explore the interdependence between isolation, technology and connectedness.

There is something about a good story which, more than any other form of data, works with our imagination to make sense of the human condition. We’re excited by Charisse’s idea of examining this complex issue through the medium of photography. If a picture speaks a thousand words then a portrait is a journey to the heart of humanity. It’s a journey that is evidenced by the well-trodden pathways of memory and experiences that a face can reveal as plainly as a pin-drop on a Google map.

Seeing is believing

Charisse’s FaceTime project sets out to explore isolation through a neutral lens that is intentionally devoid of hypothesis. She believes the absence of prejudice is the purest question humans ask each other. And by so doing, we create spaces that foster empathy; fuel possibilities and engender social healing. All of which, from our experience of working with those at greatest risk, are precisely the inputs that help mitigate the harm of isolation.

FaceTime explores how we live and interact today; increasingly through the screens of our digital devices. Questions emerge as we embrace the miracle of feeling close to each other even when we’re not in the same physical space. One of those questions being: “what is proximity in the digital area?” Another being, “why is isolation on the rise?”

Are we missing out on those little social cues that build confidence and acceptance? Trading them, instead, for new phobias and new forms of social anxiety? Friday 13th September will be the first of seven portrait sessions, which will go on to inform an exhibition this December in Birmingham.

Absence of assumption is the purest of questions

The flipside of this scenario is the sense of breakthrough that comes when an isolated person discovers a means of self-expression. And that’s precisely what Charisse envisions for her innovative campaign. She wants to show that being heard is not only the antidote to isolation but it’s also the fabric from which all our stories are woven. It’s the story of humanity.

stillness and listening

Two things stand out from our recent experience as documented in the Happy Bub case studies. First, it’s nearly always a surprise when people find they really can take control of the things that distress them. Secondly, the key that eventually unlocks the door wasn’t the one they were expecting. You could say, it’s not about finding your voice at all. It’s more a case of finding “stillness” so your voice can find you. Charisse will capture that stillness in her amazing perspective on the things that connect us.

The experience of isolation can be like being stuck inside your own little bubble of angst-riddled doubt where nothing ever truly makes sense. When you do try and navigate your way through, it simply becomes an echo chamber of boomeranging conversations that seem to lead right back to where you started. Or worse, two or three steps backwards through a maze of scrambled timelines. 

The Unheard are Slipping Through the Inequality Gaps

Breaking the cycle means finally feeling like you’ve connected with kindred spirits: people who “get you” and “get it”. It’s a liberating thought isn’t t? And it can come out of the blue like the proverbial bolt of lightning. Sometimes we do have to go down the less trodden road in order to be heard. When we do, the worst that can happen is we get to meet fellow-travellers.

inhabiting story

That people are feeling increasingly isolated is a deeply perplexing paradox in a world that has never been so connected in terms of technology and social networks. There are, of course, wider socio-economic factors in play. The inequality gap in the richer Western economies is widening despite the largest growth in their respective GDP since the 2008 credit crunch. (McKinsey On Government Discussion Paper)

It would seem these inequalities are synonymous with the very gaps through which the “unheard” fall with no obvious means of escape. But we believe there is always hope. Once a person finds their voice, they have control of their story. And with that comes agency and access to a world of possibilities. You can find out more Charisse’s inspiring campaign here: charissekenion.com/facetime


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