Posts tagged: Photography

From the Vault: ‘I feel triangle’: art can help us confront our emotions and come to terms with them

Back in May 2022, Socially Engaged Photographer in Residence Gwen Riley Jones wrote the following blog, reflecting on her meetings and conversations with members of Salford Youth Council. Gwen met with Salford Youth Council throughout 2022, connecting with the young people, using the Art Collection as a catalyst for conversations and activities, and working on several projects with the Youth Council. You can find more details about Gwen’s work throughout her residency here.

At the culmination of her residency, Gwen’s work with the Salford Youth Council has been captured in our latest exhibition on campus. ‘Some Days I Feel Triangle’ continues in the New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery until April 28th 2023. We are sharing this blog ‘from the vaults’ with you now because it is from the discussions with members of Salford Youth Council captured here that the exhibition draws its name, and many of these early ideas about how art can be a tool for expression and wellbeing underpin Gwen’s work with the Youth Council.

For all the details on Some Days I Feel Triangle at the New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery, click here.

I love the chats that we have at Youth Council, the group are so intelligent, honest and open. I am always blown away by the insights they share and how much I relate to their explanations of the world. The group have respectful, insightful conversations and operate as a whole group in a way that some adult professionals unable to do successfully. I would like to figure out what their secret is, how do they do it – older adults have so much to learn from young people.

In this conversation we were talking about the purpose of art. As usual, some members of the group chatted while others noted down thoughts on the conversation roll. Here are some highlights:

  • Music creates an emotion and creates ART 
  • To evoke a thought/an emotional response from someone 
  • To explore emotions, to show pain 
  • To show different points of view in life 
  • To express yourself 
  • Art can be a safe space for people to express themselves 
  • Art is a way for someone to expand and communicate their visions physically and emotionally 
  • To make a safe space to relax in and a place where the artist can escape 
  • To get different ideas out into the world 
  • To explore 
  • To explore hypothetical scenarios (what if?) 

Harley said: ‘the most important reason to explore and self-express emotions through art is it’s an easy way to bring ourselves to confront those emotions especially when dealing with negative emotions, like sadness and depression’. Amber agrees.  

I asked, ‘is it easy?’

‘It is comparatively easy – you can confront them and come to terms with them, Harley said. 

Alex shared ‘I can never cry about stuff that’s going on with me, but if I watch a movie then I can cry. It’s similar to that.’ 

Amber, Ollie and Harley: ‘I can’t cry’… 

…but I find when I get something down in an artistic form, whether that be words or drawings, it helps me more easily to organise my thoughts and understand what I’m feeling.  

[I’ve only cried at one movie – INSIDE OUT (Pixar).] 

‘Inside Out.’ Image © 2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Harley: ‘Emotions are abstract things. It might be hard to put into words.  

So it might be easier to put the emotion in to a picture or something more metaphysical… 

> sounds 

> colours  

> shapes >>> I’ve genuinely said to someone I feel very triangle today’


Amber and Alex: ‘YES, I always say I feel beige’

Ollie: ‘How do I just understand I’m feeling very triangle today? 

When you said it, I just got it.  

I understand why I got beige, but not triangle.’ 

Some Days I feel triangle, a digital collage created by Gwen Riley Jones in response to a conversation with Salford Youth Council and Some Days No.03, 2002 by Wang Ningde, part of University of Salford Art Collection

We asked Gwen to refelct on this blog ‘from the vaults’ in spring of 2023, after her exhibition with Salford Youth Council opened. Here are her thoughts looking back almost a year on:

This conversation resonated with me throughout my time with the Youth Council. I made this digital collage (above) while I was thinking about and processing what they said . The conversation made me think about this artwork Some Days No.3, 2002 by Wang Ningde, which I had been discussing with another group of young people. We discussed that it wasn’t clear how the subject of the image felt – happy, sad, indifferent, dreamy – everyone saw something different.

Feelings and emotions can look, feel, and are experienced differently by everyone. They can be hard to describe, hard to put in to words, and there is no right or wrong, you feel how you feel. Art can help us explore and confront our emotions, and find new ways of expressing them. Feelings and emotions pass, some days you feel one thing, some days you feel another. This is how we came to the title, Some Days I Feel Triangle. How do you feel today?

More more information on Some Days I Feel Triangle, click here.

LOOK Photo Biennial 2022 x University of Salford: Artist in Residence Project showcase

Artist-in-residence Gwen Riley-Jones has been working with the University of Salford Art Collection since 2021, using the Collection as a starting point to engage with young people about what matters most to them. 

As part of the LOOK Photo Biennial 2022: Climate at the University of Salford, a digital showcase of three series of images created in collaboration with young people and communities across Salford is on display in the New Adelphi Building Atrium. These include:  

  • Planting for the Planet – images of chlorophyll prints exhibited for the first time;  
  • Salford LGBTQ+ Youth Groups – images created during photography workshops on the day of Salford Pride during Youth Week August 2022,  
  • Salford Youth Council x Tindall Street Allotments – images created when Youth Council teamed up with an allotment run by and for military veterans. 

Planting for the Planet was produced collaboratively with youth environment group Action for Conservation, in partnership with RHS Garden Bridgewater. Together they explored how art and creativity can help communicate issues around climate change.  

Image: Daniel, Planting for the Planet

Using socially-engaged photography practice and sustainable plant-based printing methods, the group produced a series of images originally shown at RHS Garden Bridgewater in Summer. The photographs on display were taken by group members exploring their own relationships to natural environments; including green tinted portrait images made using spinach juice instead of ink, on recycled paper. 

Alongside the digital showcase in New Adelphi, there is a physical display of the spinach prints (anthotypes) alongside a series of chlorophyll prints; a method of creating a photographic print within a leaf using naturally occurring light-sensitive pigments.  

Gwen adds: “During my residency I have also been working with groups of young people in partnership with Salford Youth Service, together we have explored wellbeing and ways of using photography and nature to connect and feel better. 

Image: LGBTQ+ Youth Groups Salford 

The digital showcase presents a series of images created by members of Salford’s LGBTQ+ Youth Groups during a photography workshop as part of Salford Pride celebrations in August 2022. I met many enthusiastic and talented photographers during the workshops, and we are discussing ways we can work together again in the future.  

As part of my ongoing collaboration with Salford Youth Council there is a selection of images included in the digital display created when the group helped out at Tindall Street Allotments, during the summer holidays. The allotment is run by Vinny Nield and a group of Military Veterans. Vinny and the team shared their knowledge of plants and growing with the group, as well as getting them involved in the practical aspects of running an allotment. The group created photographs to explore this environment and the positive effects on both mental and physical health.”

Image: Hayden, Salford Youth Council 

Additionally, there is a second physical display of the ‘Photowalk for Wellbeing’ created in collaboration with Salford Youth Council. The photowalk activity is for anyone who wants to take some time out to take ‘notice, connect and feel better’.

The group created the prompts by responding to photographs they had taken in and around Salford. They created an accessible design, taking into account the needs of people with dyslexia.  

Image: Salford Youth Council creating the Photowalk for Wellbeing, Gwen Riley Jones 
Image: Example prompt card from the Photowalk for Wellbeing 

The cards are displayed in an open vitrine for you to pick up and take on your own Photowalk for Wellbeing, alone or with friends. Share with us by tagging us in the images @uos_artcollection @salfordyouthcouncil @gwenrileyjones 

Gwen will also be hosting a guided Photowalk for Wellbeing on Thursday 10th November 2.00-3.00pm, starting in the New Adelphi Building Atrium.  

To book tickets for the Photowalk or the launch event on 3rd November, and for more information on the other exhibitions on display click here.  

The digital showcase can be viewed online here. 

Salford Rediscovered, 16th June 2022 

Rediscovering Salford has been a city-wide programme of events, highlighting and celebrating Salford’s green spaces. The programme was inspired by the launch of RHS Bridgewater gardens in May 2021. Over 2020-2022, Rediscovering Salford animated the city with new commissions, exhibitions, workshops and events. To close the project, we gathered together to share and celebrate the project across Salford Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Salford campus and Peel Park. 

Salford Rediscovered was a celebration of music, films, tours, performances, workshops and a one-time-only appearance of Madam Mort, as created by drag artist Cheddar Gorgeous. A party for anyone and everyone in Salford to enjoy.  

Anthotype workshops

During the event, I held two Anthotype workshops, based at the IGNITION Living Lab in the heart of the University of Salford Campus. I discovered this historic process when collaborating with the IGNITION project and RHS Communities exploring nature-based solutions to climate change. You can read more about my work making anthotypes with the Youth group from Action for Conservation back at Easter here. 

Anthotypes are photographic prints made using plants, in these workshops we used spinach. The spinach is blended down to create a light-sensitive emulsion which is applied to paper in several layers. Once the paper is dry, photographic transparencies, or other objects can be placed on the paper. Next, secure everything in a frame and set out in the sun. No chemicals or harmful substances are used in this process, making it safe, sustainable and climate friendly. 

Workshop participant closing the frame of their anthotype ready to put it in the sun
Anthotypes exposing in the sunshine on a stand

Once in the sun, the sunlight fades the areas of paper not protected. Where the photograph/object blocks the sunlight, we maintain a rich green colour. When we open the frame, we find a photographic print.

However, this print is not fixed, exposure to sunlight will make the print disappear – reminding us to continually try to reduce impact we have on the planet by choosing sustainable ways to live. It is also a reminder of the power and danger of the sun. We each have a responsibility to change our behaviours to reduce the effects of climate change.

This image shows the anthotype exposing in the sun, the paper is still green but you can see the effect of the sunshine starting to bleach the page
Anthotype exposing in the sunshine, you can see the green starting to bleach
This image shows the anthotype with the leaves and flowers still on the page, but with the paper bleached from the effect of the sun
Bleached anthotype with flowers and leaves still on the page
This image shows the leaves and the flowers that have been removed from the anthotype
The leaves and flowers that were used to create the anthotype

Over 50 people took part, across 2 workshops, and the groups created 30 anthotypes. We used leaves, flower petals, and images from the University of Salford Art Collection, and the Planting for the Planet exhibition showcasing the work created by the young people I worked with from Action for Conservation, currently on display at RHS Bridgewater until 27 August 2022.

Anthotype image of woman sat on top of buildings surrounded by leaves
Anthotype by Amelia of original image by Sarah Hardacre
Anthotype image of yound person stood next to some plants
Anthotype by Megan of original image of Angelica by Olivia
Anthotype image of young person crouched on a rain garden surrounded by leaves
Anthotype created by Dan of original image of Tamar by Mariam
Anthotype image of a young man surrounded by leaves
Anthotype created by Steve using original image by Craig Easton
Anthotype image of a woman and buildings surrounded by leaves
Anthotype created by Deb of original image by Sarah Hardacre


The best thing about the event, for me, was the range of people taking part and enjoying the process – aged below 10 to over the age of 70. And the feedback from the participants:  

‘I love it! Definitely abandoning chemicals for now and trying this instead…’                 

‘I really enjoyed my dabble. Have had a session with the Grandkids. A) they read how to do sun pics B) they told me what they needed paper etc C) a very enjoyable wander down the canal collecting wild stuff.  

So thanks, it kept 4 of them ranging from 6-16 occupied all of one day and half of the next with a walk. Result 😍’ 

‘Thanks for this, looks great. Interesting that some light came through the leaves. 
Need to get some spinach and have a go. What sort of paper would you advise using?’ 

‘I enjoyed it.  I am definitely going to try out some stuff myself at home’ 

How to make anthotypes at home

So for any of you who would like to have a go at plant-based photography at home – here’s how to do it:

What you’ll need:

300g of spinach 

A hand blender 

2 x plastic jug 

1 x funnel 

Coffee filter papers 

A sponge brush 

Acid-free watercolour or cartridge paper 

A clip frame 

Some leaves, flowers or petals – or any other object you wish to use 

Or a photographic transparency – you can create your own using digital transfer film and a home inkjet printer 


Step 1: Put the spinach leaves in a large plastic just and blend with a hand blender until you create a smooth liquid 

Step 2: Line the funnel with a coffee filter paper and place on the second jug. Put the spinach liquid in to the second jug and leave to drip (aprox. 30 mins) 

Step 3: Take your filtered spinach liquid and coat your paper. Allow to dry between each coat – either naturally or by carefully using a hairdryer. Coat the paper 3-4 times.  

Step 4: Assemble leaves, petals, photographic transparencies or any other flat objects you choose on the paper. 

Step 5: Secure the paper and the objects in a clip frame and leave out in direct sunlight, ideally outside, but inside a window will also work.  

Step 6: Wait. Depending on how much sun you have the images could develop in a matter of hours, or over a few days. Your image is ready when the uncovered areas of the paper – that you can see, have faded to near white. 

Step 7: Open your frame and reveal your print. 

Note: the print will fade if exposed to direct sunlight. 

Need inspiration?

Before making your own, you can visit the Planting for the Planet exhibition at RHS Bridgewater until August 27th, where you can see the anthotypes created by the young people from Action for Conservation on display alongside a collage of photographs, ‘Our City, Our Nature’ and contributions from communities on taking climate action by greening Greater Manchester. The exhibition demonstrates the importance of plants and nature in creating resilient, healthy and beautiful spaces for people and the planet to coexist.  

Gwen Riley Jones is Socially Engaged Photographer in Residence at the University of Salford Art Collection in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.

Salford Rediscovered was led by the Salford Culture and Place Partnership, the University of Salford, Solid Ground, Salford City Council, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, and RHS Garden Bridgewater. Rediscovering Salford has created fantastic engagement and original commissions with Islington Mill, Paradise Works, START Creative, The Lowry and Walk the Plank. This programme is generously supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as contributions from all the project partners.