Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is a series of stop motion animations created by refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants living in Leeds, which responds to Mohammad Barrangi’s exhibition. Facilitated by The Highrise Project and part of Leeds University Library Galleries’ ‘Welcoming Migrants’ initiative, the project took place over the course of six workshops. The group explored the magic of storytelling through collage, print and stop motion animation. Participants learned new stop motion techniques, including character development, storyboarding, and green screen to tell short, emotive stories. While the workshops did not focus specifically on their personal experiences of migration, many participants chose to explore ideas around travel, translation and alienation to share their unique insights.

The Moving Pictures project had several interconnected aims. As part of Smeaton300, it aimed to celebrate Leeds-based engineer, John Smeaton, by linking his legacy to contemporary themes of migration and cultural exchange. By developing this work in advance of the exhibition launch, we aimed not only to enhance participants’ knowledge and appreciation of Barrangi’s work, but also to enable them to showcase their work in the gallery.

The workshop equipped participants with practical skills in stop motion animation, with participants who had previously avoided technology feeling more comfortable with using it and even signing up for further courses. As many of the participants want to improve their communication in English, this also gave them an opportunity to practice speaking and to build new connections and friendships. The final showreel of animations provided a platform for participants to express their personal stories and cultural heritage.

The workshops covered different aspects of stop motion animation, from basic techniques to character creation and the use of green screen. We used the free Stop Motion Studio app on iPads funded by Leeds Community Foundation and 100% Digital Leeds, and signposted to Leeds Libraries’ iPad lending service. This meant that participants were able to access technology between the sessions. Participants were encouraged to use the app at home and were supported by additional resources and drop-in studio sessions offsite.

The animations created during the workshops were compiled into a showreel and exhibited alongside Barrangi’s work. Participants were invited to the exhibition opening, where they saw their work displayed. The Moving Pictures project successfully combined art, digital skills, and language learning, to improve skills, mental health and wellbeing among participants.