Exhibition: Adam Patterson and Jean Claude Dagrou – Another Lost Child, Photofusion, London, until March 25 2011
Frenzied press coverage of teenage gun and knife crime has long fuelled the fears of the public.
While living in South London and studying for his Masters in photojournalism, Adam Patterson decided to confront that fear by going beyond the harrowing headlines and into the heart of South London gangland culture.
“I decided to try to find these kids the journalists were writing about and learn about their lives – give them a voice of their own,” Patterson explains.
“It was very difficult initially. I’m a white guy from Northern Ireland and I did question what right I had to get involved in a place which wasn’t my home or part of my culture. The project had the potential to be an ethical minefield.”
Perhaps it is for these reasons that the resulting exhibition abstains from being overtly morally or politically prescriptive. However, it does transcend the menacing stereotypes showcased in the media to reveal something altogether more tender and human.
Patterson’s initial project organically became a collaboration between himself and his main subject – Jean Claude Dagrou, a 19-year-old gang member with whom Patterson grew very close.
Dagrou, or “Vipoh”, now 22, was not only stabbed but witnessed the stabbing of his cousin and was looking for a way out of gang life.
His passion being music, he asked Patterson to take pictures for his MySpace page and soon began using the photographer as an excuse to avoid old friends.
The two spent almost every day together for a period of six months, collaborating on Patterson’s photographic project, Another Lost Child.
Dagrou was accepted onto a photography course at Photofusion and began producing his own work.
He has since moved to Doncaster to live with his girlfriend, and “start afresh”. The exhibition follows him to Doncaster and documents his new life away from the daily grind of his former existence.
It is Dagrou himself who provides the emotional context for the exhibition by narrating each photograph and providing work of his own.