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Charlotte Elizabeth is using photography to help young people overcome anxiety, depression and stress. The Staffordshire University alumna is a self-employed photographer working in Barnsley, capturing her customers’ most precious moments in her lens. From weddings to family portraits and baby pictures, Charlotte is now using her talents to help her community.
“I’ve started working with a group of 16 and 17 year olds for a group in Barnsley called Therapies for Anxiety, Depression and Stress (TADS),” Charlotte said. “It’s going really well. We’ve only had a couple of sessions so far but we’re looking at using photography to explore mindfulness, which is an exercise to make them more aware of their surroundings.”
Charlotte’s interest in using her photography skills and knowledge in community projects stems from her time at Staffordshire University – after work experience with Stoke-on-Trent based Letting in the Light. The not for profit participatory arts company uses artistic outlets, such as photography, to help people with learning difficulties, challenging behavior, dementia and other mental health diagnoses.
“I’ve always had an interest in photography,” Charlotte explained. “I was always the one who was taking the photos in my group of friends when I was younger. It was something I enjoyed so I thought I would pursue it at AS level at Barnsley College.”
Charlotte then took a night class to attain her A level before signing up to study the subject further at Staffordshire University. She said: “I came to Stoke on an induction day and I was shown the dark room and the other facilities and met the lecturers who were all really lovely.
“Looking back now, one of the first modules I did, using film instead of digital photos, was one of the most eye opening,” Charlotte continued. “It was really difficult and stressful but it made you stop more and think about what you were photographing because every picture was money, unlike in digital where you can just photo everything and worry about it later.”
During her third year, Charlotte spent eight weeks with Letting in the Light, which was established in 1997 and employs the skills of artists, writers, dancers and musicians to work in partnership with other local organisations.
“After working with Letting in the Light and then graduating, what I really wanted to do after moving back to Barnsley was work in community arts, using photography to help people, but there was no funding in my area,” Charlotte said. “So then I started working in portraits, natural style photography and weddings, which I absolutely love being part of.”
Since then, Charlotte has been able to realise her original ambitions and has recently started working with TADS. “It is a relatively new group,” she explained. “I knew about them before and they were displaying some of my work in their office. Then they asked if I’d like to run one of the sessions.”
She continued: “I will still work on family photography and weddings and hopefully start to fit that around other community work. There are big events, like Christmas, where it gets very busy. But I’m currently putting together a proposal for the next academic year to work with schools in my area and I’m speaking with someone about therapeutic work within the mental health sector as well. It’s very busy and it’s all going really well.”