Near Belonging

Film by Faye Claridge showing in the foyer 24 January – 25 February

Faye Claridge’s idea for Near Belonging is deceptively simple: participants look through portraits from the Robert Graham’s Studio Collection and ‘adopt’ someone from the archive.

People living in Warwickshire willing to share fascinating and varied experiences of ‘belonging’ were found through a BBC CWR call-out and approaches to community organisations supporting asylum seekers and young care leavers.

Over a number of sessions that included creative confidence-building exercises, Faye recorded conversations about the archive portraits that had been chosen and what their (imagined) connections might be.

The portraits were found in 1987 as huge stacks of decaying glass negative plates in a cellar in Leamington Spa. Later identified as being from the town’s Robert Graham photography studio (1873-1925) 5,000 were saved and safely re-homed at Warwickshire County Record Office. Most remain anonymous; faces without names, souvenirs without memories.

As well as recordings, participants worked with Faye to create new portraits, merging the old and the new. The resulting film is a concentrated bubble of humanity, a vulnerable, funny and heart-breaking look at what belonging, or being Near Belonging, might mean.