Make Life worth living is exhibition of photographs taken by Nick Hedges for shelter, between 1968–1972 and is shown for the first time in Science Museum. Nick Hedges document oppressive and abject living conditions experienced in poor quality housing in Britain. He travelled UK for four years photographing in many towns and cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford and Glasgow.
- Balsall Heath, Birmingham, June1969
The picture shows a child holding a crying baby in her arm in a dark and dirty room. The room is so dark that photographer used flash to light up child with baby. The dress hanging on a door probably belongs to mother who might leave them and went out. A small girl takes care of her little sister, while waiting for her mother. Her eyes are full of fierce but she feels responsibility for baby and holds it very tight.
The punctum: The way the child touching the baby face, like she wants to say: “don’t cry I’m here close to you, I love you and will care for you”. It remains me the way I hold and touch my baby when was crying and trying make her feel safe.
- Balsall Heath, Birmingham, January 1969
Mother with her children in a very small and poor room where is nothing apart of one bed without mattress and baby cot. The walls are dirty and covered with dump. Mrs and Ms with her four children lived in council house in a very poor condition where were no bathroom, no hot water, outside lavatory, inside walls running with dump and children were sleeping in the middle of winter on two sodden seat cushions covered by a blanket and coat. They didn’t have heating in the room, the snow lay outside and the windows were broken. The picture was taken in Birmingham, January 1969.
Punctum: The mother. She looks scared and stressed. She stands behind the bed and holding little girl. She is only 23 years old. I can imagine how hard life treated her and how difficult it could be to live in that housing condition. When Nick Hedges tried to help the family and contacted to social worker who provided blankets, mattresses and some furniture. But one day the family disappeared without trace. I’m wondering why they didn’t take help? Where they afraid of something? In my background country I had a friend who lived in poor house and came from domestic violence family. And this mother reminds me about her. The same face expression full of sadness and hopeless.
- Springburn, Glasgow 1971.
The father is sitting on a single bed with baby on his lap. His head touches the baby head in a symbol of carrying and love. The light coming from window lit up baby and fathers hand holding cigarette. On the left hand he has got cross tattoo and” love” written on fingers. On the right hand I think he has written “hate” on fingers but I can’t see properly. The baby looks confident on his lap and smiles. On the picture is father with one of his children. He lives in a small room with his wife and two other children in a single room.
Punctum: I can’t stand why he smoke while he’s holding h his baby. I don’t know if this is because he doesn’t know or doesn’t care about child’s health. I know they weren’t educated but instinct tells you what is good for your child and what is bad. This picture really frustrated me because shows completely opposite things. I think he just hold baby only for the picture, that he is carrying father and it would look good on photograph, but it is fake. And I don’t like it. I know families who do that and always when I see parent smoking near children I have to say something, just for child’s good.