'All that We Are is story'

‘All that We Are is Story’ is a portrait project that explores untold stories from diverse communities in the multicultural metropolis of Birmingham. Sparking discourse surrounding topics that are often unaddressed and challenging stereotypes, ‘All that We Are is Story’ captures an eclectic mix of authentic life experiences and perspectives of people living in the heart of contemporary Britain. 
Adopting historic methodology, reminiscent of Edward S Curtis, portraits are taken using a portable photo booth that lights sitters using natural light. Participants are invited to share a meaningful story that is close to their heart of which they think may benefit somebody else. Some opt to write, and others for their conversations to be recorded. 
Sharing stories and experiences is a fundamental part of being human. It allows us to foster individuality and wellbeing, understand and empathise, and spread lessons and perspectives between people from different walks of life. 

'When we take the time to share stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognise our kinship - we change the world, one story at a time’ 
-Richard Wagamese 

  Living with his father who struggled with issues surrounding alcoholism, Max had a tough start to life and was forced to mature quickly. In his written extract he reflects on a formative moment from his childhood.
 Now, in a much better position, Max is currently studying to complete his A-Levels of which are business studies, financial studies and digital marketing. His next step in life is to enrol into the Signals unit of the Army of which specialises in communications. 

 From as far back as Herbert can remember he recalls his Dad keeping a film camera in his home. At the age of 8 Herbert brought a twin lens camera from a local flea market for £1 which spelled the beginning of his artist's journey. 

 Although not always photography, Herbert has always pursued artistic endeavours. Having had jobs such as bricklaying and furniture restoration he moved on to become an exhibiting artist, earning many residencies over the years - including a residency at The Carlton Arms hotel in New York where he worked closely with Banksy for a number of weeks. 
 Traversing the front line of documentary photography, Herbert utilised his bravery, street smarts and interpersonal skills to tackle and document some of Britain's most tense moments. 
Reflecting on a rich career, Herbert recalled moments he stared danger in the face. From documenting the Mark Duggan riots in 2011, homeless stories in New York and the Romanian Gypsy Community in Birmingham to name a few. 
‘’As a street photographer and documenter I was fearless and didn't care. Once you start caring that's when you start to hesitate and that's when you start to miss stuff.’’

 At this stage in Herbert's life his main goal is to have his work archived and exhibited in as many places as possible. His exhibition: Portraits of Black Britain is currently being exhibited at The Medicine Bakery in Birmingham City centre. 
B2 4DU.
  2 years ago Eddie was using a zebra crossing, on Bath Row in Birmingham, when he was hit by a speeding car. Tossing him over the roof, Eddie suffered from a loss of consciousness and a stroke to his left side. Without a driver's licence and insurance, the driver attempted to make a getaway but was later apprehended by police.

  Eddie spent 2 months in recovery and had to learn to walk again. Today he is still battling the case in court, along with various health issues, including issues regarding his abdomen and his ability to walk. 

  Eddie is happy the police were able to detain the driver, especially as they found a firearm in his vehicle.
Battling with ADHD and undiagnosed dyslexia, Brendan had a tricky start to life. Struggling throughout school, teachers were unforgiving of Brendan’s behaviour and often justified his inability to complete tasks by labelling him as stupid. 

At the age of 23, Brendan obtained a job working at a milk factory. One day whilst working he was approached by the manager who had noticed Brendan’s difficulty reading and writing. Within 3 months the company had paid for a full diagnosis for Brendan’s dyslexia.
‘It felt really good getting a diagnosis! A report was sent out to my workplace and they made lots of adjustments for me. 
 Working in a milk factory there are different recipes for different types of milk. Typically, each milk is colour-coordinated. Green is semi-skimmed, blue is whole milk... One adjustment they made for me was colour coordinating my instructions with the particular milk variant, which made it a lot easier for me to understand.
Halima and Haleemah are two young Muslim students from Nigeria, who developed a friendship after they moved to the UK to study at degree level. Both women expressed how much they appreciate their newfound independence but at the detrimental cost of loneliness from not having their families close by. At least they have each other…  
 Haleemah and Halima are two young Muslim students from Nigeria, who developed a friendship after they moved to the UK to study at degree level. Both women expressed how much they appreciate their newfound independence but at the detrimental cost of loneliness from not having their families close by. At least they have each other…
3 and a half years ago Muhammad was a victim of a racial attack from his ex-partner who stabbed him 17 times in the face, legs and hands because of his Irish heritage. After the attack he was left homeless and is still recovering today.
  Suffering from PTSD and flashbacks from the attack, Muhammad made an attempt to harm himself but was stopped by a visiting support office who saved his life. Muhammad still maintains a relationship with both the support worker and paramedic that helped him on that day.

‘While I was homeless, there was a Pakistani, Muslim family who helped me off of the streets, giving me shelter in their own home. I helped look after their children by teaching them maths and helping with their homework, in return they taught me how to speak Arabic. They taught me so much about life.’

Mohamad has now devoted his life to helping vulnerable people off of the streets and into temporary accommodation. His friend stated that he has to look after Muhammad because otherwise he would give everything he owns to anybody he can help. 

Ronnie worked as a specialist scaffolder on the oil rigs in Jersey for 25 years. When I asked him about the dangers he faced on the rigs his voice took a lower tone and he replied. “When the storms come”.

“You were underneath the rigs most of the time. When you went down you would have to clip yourself to the scaffolding with a harness - you would have to clip it in quick!”
“Sometimes when you were working under the rigs an alarm would go off that would signify a storm coming and when that happened you would have to leave everything, tools the lot… and get back up to the top.” 

“There was one time where a young lad i was working with went back for his walkie talkie because the safety managers told everyone to never misplace them.”
“A £60 Walkie Talkie - It fucking takes the piss.”
“He was new to the job so I took him under my wing. The alarm went off and so we had to get out. I was in front of him and when he turned around I shouted what you doing and he said I'm going back for my Walkie Talkie.”
 “ I said don't be daft, leave it! We only have minutes! There's a big storm coming.”
“He went back and a 30ft wave came and swept him off the scaffold. Snapped his harness like paper.”
“They found his body 3 days later.”
  “He had a young wife and two young kids. We were worried the wife was going to think it was our fault but she didn't.”  
“They're alright now though, the lady has remarried since and they have a little one together. Me and my brother visit every year for Christmas Dinner and my brother spoils the kids. Treats them like his own. Well they're all grown now.”

“In the end, I learnt more from that family than I ever learnt over my career as a scaffolder. About perseverance and the importance of family.”

“When people meet me they say they have never met anybody like me in their whole life and quite often they react with hostility” 

Alan takes great pride in his unique identity and fascinating conversations. For the last 40 years Alan has been collecting & recycling scrap metal by foot. Pushing a flatbed cart around the city of Birmingham, Alan collects discarded and littered metals and painstakingly strips every item he finds into specific types of metals. 
“Scrap metal recycling is a job where you can work the hours you want, you can weigh in when you want… nobody tells you what to do. It ticks all the boxes. I think more students should do this as a job while they study because it's flexible.”

“ I once found a skip outside Workguard filled with brand new, ex-display model, work boots. There were no pairs in there but I managed to find a few similar looking boots that I was prepared to wear. I just started to walk away with my new boots and a man came running out and said ‘Put those back!’. He then took control of my trolley and threw them all back into the skip.”
  “Anyway, I went back the next day and got them back.”
“It's a nasty attitude to have  'I don't want it but I won't let you have it' I come across that from time to time.”

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