Photographer shares memorial to the missing

A student photographer is sharing the stories of families whose loved ones have gone missing, in Staffordshire University’s Degree Show

Stephen Lawson in front of his photos

Stephen Lawson's photographs document the lives of parents whose children have gone missing

I felt it was necessary to document, to help this organisation and these people to tell their stories. I wanted to recreate a space that could be anybody’s living room and make you feel that it can happen to anyone.

Stephen Lawson, BA (Hons) Photography

This week, the Degree Show 2022 will showcase the final year projects of hundreds of students from across Art, Design, Media and Performance courses.

The free exhibition, open until Saturday 11 June, features work by BA (Hons) Photography student Stephen Lawson who decided to pursue his passion for photography as a mature student after working as a Risk Manager around the world.

The 50-year-old from Forsbrook collaborated with UK charity Missing People for his project Those Left Behind which documents the lives of families whose loved ones have gone missing. The series of photographs and videos feature the parents of Andrew Gosden, Quentin Godwin, Cian Langelaan and Charles Horvath-Allan.

Stephen explained: “When I was living in Paris in my 20s a friend of mine went missing and it struck me at the time how alone the families of people who are missing must feel.

“A missing person can be forgotten about after a short time. Normally after the media interest has died down, we don’t hear anything else about them but the family members and friends have to live without knowing what has happened. Everyone copes differently – some have accepted it, some are angry, some are sad.”

Stephen’s installation takes you into a living room complete with sofas, a television and knick- knacks. Photographs of his subjects are hung around the room alongside missing posters of their children.

On the television visitors can view films of the parents talking about favourite family photographs of their children. Underneath a crucifix on the wall sits a sideboard crammed full of photo frames showcasing these family memories – an altar to the missing. Alongside them sits a three-minute egg timer, representing how often someone in the UK goes missing.

Stephen added: “I felt it was necessary to document, to help this organisation and these people to tell their stories. I wanted to recreate a space that could be anybody’s living room and make you feel that it can happen to anyone.

“In America you have photos on milk cartons and a lot more advertisement than you have here in England. If we don’t do more to encourage the police to investigate things like this in better ways or if we don’t encourage social services to work better with at risk children and adults then this will happen to more and more people.”

Stephen will exhibit Those Left Behind in London later this year and hopes to continue working with Missing Persons and more families.

The Degree Show 2022 is open to the public from Monday 6 June to Saturday 11 June. Car parking is available on our Leek Road site and parking charges have been lifted for the duration of the degree show.

Opening times:

  • Monday 6 June, 10am – 5pm
  • Tuesday 7 June, 10am – 5pm
  • Wednesday 8 June, 10am – 8pm
  • Thursday 9 June, 10am – 5pm
  • Friday 10 June, 10am – 9pm
    Celebration Evening 6.30 - 9.00pm
  • Saturday 11 June, 9am – 3pm

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