• Ellie Bell

PART I: Masters Project Pre-Pandemic!

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

I began my MA Commercial Photography project by looking at socio-politics surrounding food. Examples include: environmental/food waste, isolation, food poverty and education. The 'Waste Not Cafe' in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, inspired me to document a small solution to the issue of tonnes of food going to waste in the UK, although there are thousands of people suffering with food poverty and insecurity. The Waste Not Cafe buys surplus food produce from supermarkets via FareShare, therefore decreasing the amount of food being wasted, and then cooking this food into a three course vegetarian/vegan meal at a monthly event. The event is held at a local church, and tickets are only £2.50 for all three courses. People are encouraged to sit with strangers and get to know each other as they enjoy the meal. All profits from the events go to local food banks, and from starting in October 2019 until the last meal before the pandemic (February 2020), the organisation has so far donated £400 to food banks in Chesterfield.

I attended the monthly events and took photographs of attendees enjoying themselves, volunteers cooking and the lovely food itself. I then moved on to taking portraits of the people who attended the cafe, and also asked them to write their answer to one question (e.g. why the cafe is important, why they attend, their opinion on food poverty, the responsibility of the government). This turned out to be a great way to discover more about the visitors of the cafe and what purpose the event is actually providing. At first, I imagined the event to be popular for those suffering in food poverty and homeless, as the ticket entry price is only optional. However only two homeless people have ever attended, once, although it is a great opportunity for a free meal in the warm and dry. The events so far have actually attracted more working/middle-class families, perhaps because it is an easy way to provide help to the community and also become more environmentally friendly.

The portraits themselves were actually very challenging in the given environment. The walls were all painted yellow, with purple decor, and tungsten ceiling lighting. Given this, in post-production the major effects could be reduced, however I still wasn't 100% happy with the outcomes.


Through the Waste Not Cafe, I heard about the nearby 'Rhubarb Farm', that also use FareShare. After researching the farm online, I realised that this wasn't only a farm, it was also an organisation with support workers to help vulnerable people. For example, children with ADHD, unemployed, ex-offenders, recovering alcohol and drug abusers, elderly and dementia patients. After getting in touch with the Rhubarb Farm and being welcomed for a tour, I found out that the farm is actually a referral centre for children that are misunderstood by public schools and the curriculum because they have conditions like ADHD. Public schools will pay the farm to have children complete an ASDAN qualification there with the support workers, which is more relaxed and useful in providing essential life skills as opposed to academic ones. The farm also takes on referrals from the job centre, and provides these people with volunteering roles, as they have been unemployed for a such a long period of time. The fruits and vegetables grown on the farm are sold in a tiny onsite farm shop once a week, as are the eggs from their chickens and honey from the bees. All the volunteers are fed with the FareShare food subscription, and any unused food goes into their own miniature food bank where locals in need can go. The farm seemed to be a good option for getting higher quality portraits, as the lighting and hues wouldn't be so difficult in natural lighting. On my first visit I just took photographs of the site as I was being shown around, however I intended to return to take portraits, which is now not possible due to the pandemic and social distancing/lockdown rules.

Look out for my next posts to see how my research and practise has adapted.

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