Being in the moment...

This month, the main theme is photography and I will be changing my focus from the ceramic to the digital. I am excited to be starting weekly classes and pop-up workshops that encourage participants to have a greater sense of where they are. Not just being in the moment but witnessing themselves in the space and making choices based on what they are inspired by. Photography is a wonderful way to develop observational skill and be creative when recording what is seen.

In the Spotlight
Creative Director Imrana Mahmoud

We are all familiar with the saying of the Prophet Muhammad(s) “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” It’s a principle that Muslims are expected to uphold, whether it be in our spiritual conduct, physical countenance or outward aesthetic. In truth, we are all artists and have the potential of beauty emanating from us in all of these ways and more. I say this because creativity or artistic prowess is not just manifest in adept use of materials, there are artists whose creativity have a visionary quality. One that is more focused on establishing ideals and encouraging participation by those that would not otherwise engage in the arts or the creative process. Imrana Mahmoud is one such individual.
Mahmoud is a mother, teacher, activist and the Creative Producer of the Beyond Borders project; a Luton-based initiative which focuses on developing positive ideas about the town and its large Muslim population.
Born and educated in London, Mahmoud moved to Luton in 2006, where she began her career in teaching. Her passion for educational grassroots activities led her to become the Secretary for Dar Aminah, a women’s organisation, championing women’s cultural, spiritual and creative growth.
She has recently facilitated various creative projects, including ‘Dar Aminah Book Club’, ‘A Touching Place Creative Writing workshops’ and ‘An Evening of Poetry with the American poet Baraka Blue’.
Mahmoud’s future plans include hosting a debut exhibition of Peter Sanders work in Luton, organising more creative writing workshops and facilitating regular open microphone nights to enhance arts engagement in Luton.


“Afghan Girl”, photographic portrait 1984 by Steve McCurry

“Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition.” – Steve McCurry

This portrait of a 12-year-old Pashtun orphan, Sharbat Gula, was taken in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Afghanistan near Peshawar, Pakistan. McCurry is said to have crossed the border disguised in Afghani garb and returned with rolls of camera film sewn into his clothes. Mc Curry used photography to cover many conflicts with his raison d’etre being to capture the human condition.
This image itself is described as “the most recognised photograph” in history. The image was first used on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985 and subsequently used on Amnesty International brochures, posters, and calendars.


In line with the Beyond Borders project, a photographic competition has been launched. Participants are required to submit one photograph on the theme of ‘Identity and Integration’, with the aim of shedding light on the positive ways in which the different communities live side by side in peace and harmony.
The competition was initially aimed at Lutonians, with the winning entries being exhibited at the Stockwood Discovery Centre. But due to popular demand, the competition now incorporates a national component where budding photographers can upload their perception of theme onto the project’s Facebook page. Age categories for the competition are 11-18 years and 19 plus (with no upper age limit).
Twelve winning entries will be selected. The artwork will be unveiled and exhibited at a Luton-based venue as an offshoot of the main Beyond Borders exhibition. Deadline for entries is Friday 10th March 2017.

My Favourite Things

Photographer Mohammad Muheisen is an award winning photojournalist and an everyday hero who gives us a glimpse of a world often outside of our reach. His work is vital and absorbing. Although I do not have a specific favourite of his work, I find his approach to his subject matter one that tells wholesome stories which engage and inform the viewer in an evocative way. Muheisen places ordinary people in prominence and third world issues in the headlines. His images speak volumes and enrich lives.

Do try this at home

As well as using art as therapy with classic materials such as paint, charcoal and clay, modern technology can also be used as a creative outlet. And although I would rather discourage time spent on a smart phone, especially, when looking for a therapeutic escape, taking photographs can be a good way to de-stress. I would recommend as a starting point taking the time to observe the environment around you, noticing the colours and forms that most attract your eye. Look for lines and curves in natural and built spaces and try to capture these in a balanced way within the camera frame.
Peter Sanders says that taking the time to observe the subtle nuances of life are an important part of the final photograph. He often spends a long time in the space before taking a single shot. There is an interesting video on YouTube based on the work of award-winning photographer McCurry that outlines the concept of the rule of thirds. This rule is based on the principle of balance and harmony in image composition. Its basis is hinged dividing the photographic image into three parts; horizontally or vertically. Having a focal point that the eye is led to is also key and this can be central or in line with one of the dividing lines. A simple example of this would be a sunset in which the sky, sea and shore divide the image into three fairly equal parts. The focal point would be the sun setting on the horizon. Your choice would be to centralise the setting sun or position it one-third to the left or right of the frame.

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