Just before lockdown I worked with the YMCA in Newcastle on their Urban Mushroom project, capturing photos of the grow-your-own kits they sell made from recycled local coffee grains. It’s a genius idea and more mushroom images will be shared when they go live. Part of the photography brief was to capture urban portraits in Newcastle city centre of the local youth that the scheme employs.
The YMCA are an exciting new client for me and one of the fist things I discussed when meeting Calvin, the Marketing Officer at YMCA Newcastle, was the infamous song! I was curious to know whether it felt relevant to the work they do now. I’d thought the memorable 1970’s Village People’s flamboyance was worlds apart from what the charity does today but did you know that the song was celebrating the YMCA help given to young gay men who were rejected by family and turfed out of home? The YMCA charity gave accommodation to those homeless young men and so Calvin explained the history of the organisation was well respected in this song. Now the YMCA supports both young men and women in all areas of life and Urban Mushrooms is an important employment scheme in Newcastle’s YMCA.
My main focus for the portrait shoot was the amazing Wilton who is employed by the Urban Mushroom scheme. He was a super star and surprisingly tolerant of me pointing a camera in his direction for several hours! I got some atmospheric shots of him and YMCA staff too by simply crossing the road from their premises and using the alleyway next to the Tyneside Cinema. So many brick textures, backdrop colours and lighting styles in that one street!
The brief was to capture a more relaxed expression, so not necessarily smiling as this can appear unappealing, staged and possibly unrealistic to the younger target market the YMCA want to attract. We also discussed the use of dimension and angles to fit with the YMCA style of photography and branding currently on their website. It was a clear and creative brief (the best of course) and the mood and expression needed to be just right. It was also a different type of shoot for me as I usually encourage people to smile although I did get a few smilers at the end though. Obviously!
For more information on the YMCA Newcastle and it’s work click here