CW+ Conversations | Republic of YOUmanity: Connecting Communities Through Photography

On Wednesday 10 March 2021, we hosted a CW+ Conversations webinar about the innovative Republic of YOUmanity fundraising initiative, which last year raised over £30,000 for CW+ and our work at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Our Arts Director Trystan Hawkins was joined by renowned photographer David Taggart and arts patrons Maryam Eisler, Shirley Elghanian and Maria Sukkar, who set up the campaign during the national lockdown in November 2020. As shops around Kensington and Chelsea closed, they were transformed into a collaborative pop-up gallery displaying giant prints of Taggart’s photographs. The Republic of YOUmanity fundraiser ran for one month until 13 December 2020, with all proceeds from the sale of limited-edition prints of Taggart’s photographs going towards our Arts for All programme.

The webinar began with a discussion of the CW+ arts programme at our hospitals and how art interventions can aid in improving patient experience and outcomes as well as staff wellbeing. Maryam Eisler and Shirley Elghanian explained how they were inspired to set up the Republic of YOUmanity initiative just 36 hours before the November lockdown, as a way to support their local hospital during the pandemic, while giving purpose to the shops sadly shut. Along with Maria Sukkar, they teamed up with David Taggart to use his inspiring photographs to bring the local community together.

During the webinar, we heard from Taggart that photography provides a unique experience where you can connect through the camera and learn to look at the overlooked: “The goal is not to change the subject, but for the subject to change the photographer.” Speaking on how he has travelled around the world, overcoming language barriers to speak truthfully with human beings and capture them authentically, Taggart noted how photography can offer a lens through which to view humanity as a whole – an important reminder while we are all apart. Our guest speakers agreed that art can be an incredibly revealing way in which to connect people and tell stories; as Eisler said: “Artists have become the philosophers and thinkers of our time, stamping collective memory and psyche of our current stories”. Linking back to the work of our arts in health programme, we heard about how the Republic of YOUmanity served a two-fold purpose: to put art back into the community, bringing people together while galleries and shops are closed, and to fundraise for the CW+ arts programme, supporting our patients and staff in this challenging time.

Watch Maryam, Shirley, Maria, David and Trystan discuss how this project will support our award-winning arts in health programme and how art and photography have the power to connect us all during this time of disconnectedness and isolation: