The Gratitude in Recovery project was a collaborative participatory photography project between Meridian Raw, RISE/EDP and the Bristol Drug Project.We encouraged participants to take pictures everyday, of subjects that they are thankful for.It was generously funded by The Big Lottery- this project lasted a year across the Devon and Bristol area.

The Recovery Journey

People recovering from drug and alcohol abuse struggle to take part in social activities and integrate with others due to low self esteem, lack of confidence and suffer vast amounts of shame and embarrassment about their addiction and are reluctant to tell others they are addicts in recovery.

This can lead to feelings of being deprived, isolated, socially excluded and on what may seem like an impossible mission to becoming drug or alcohol free. This has a knock on effect by not providing role models or a lack of peer support for individuals embarking on the recovery process.

In consultation with RISE (formally Recovery Link) and EDP Devon Drug Service, the participatory photography with gratitude in recovery is an activity they very much want to see initiated their members, as they see it as a dynamic way of engaging individuals and encouraging peer support.

For participants it was a great opportunity to learn the full process of a project from the initial idea to the end product. Along with learning the theory, the outcome of the course built on life skills, whilst aiming to improve the health and wellbeing through supporting individuals. It provided a connection for the users to become an active member within their community and the surrounding environment.

“Recovering addicts often find that it is a daily struggle to avoid the triggers that can lead them back into an addiction. This can sometimes seem like an overwhelming situation since you literally have to change everything about your life including some of the people that you associated with. The good news is that this change allows you to focus on being successful and staying in recovery. The bad news is that it can lead you feelings of being deprived, isolated and on what may seem like an impossible mission for sobriety.”  – Sherry Gaba

©Jake/Meridian Raw/Rise Recovery

©Jake/Meridian Raw/Rise Recovery

©Hailey/Meridian Raw/Rise Recovery



Project details

We ran 6 participatory photography courses  in Exeter, Tiverton, Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and Bristol, with each course lasting 5 weeks.

The main content of the project looked at developing a photo-story or theme, captioning images, creating a portfolio of images and photo-dialogue exercises as well as the learning’s of basic camera use, taking pictures and photography skills.

The course is split into two separate modules the first is, Gratitude in Photography, which encourages participants to take pictures and create a portfolio of images that may include objects, people, places, scenes and feelings that they are grateful for.

During the second module, the individual is guided and encouraged to create a photo-story or photographic theme on a specific subject. This could be on community issues, the reflection of a personal journey or any subject they feel passionate about.

This project will culminated two exhibitions, curated by participants and the facilitator, in two different locations. This enables the participants to disseminate their work to a wider audience increasing the empowerment for the individuals and heightening awareness of the challenges of recovering from alcohol and substance misuse. It focused on the positive aspects of their lives and helps improve wellbeing for the participants and demonstrates the potential of this tool as a route to recovery.

Listed below is an example of the core layout of the courses that we ran:

Week 1: Basic introduction to the project and what is expected and can be gained by the participants completing the course. Basic tutorial on cameras and the materials/ equipment you will be using. A separate photo-dialogue exercise in both, small groups and as individuals. Looking at the paperwork involved for informed consent and image copyright . Beginning to think about your own photography project.

Week 2: Downloading images to view onto laptops, photography skills session and an photo-dialogue exercise looking at your community. Using photography to produce a theme or photo-story.

Week 3: Looking at a new exercise focusing on gender or a short photography local walk. Learning about captioning images to compliment your theme.

Week 4: This week continuing with individual projects, downloading new images to view on your laptop whilst captioning and editing your photos. There is also an opportunity to have a one-on-one portfolio clinic with the facilitator who will aid you to bring your project together.

Week 5: Completion of project by reviewing images, photo-stories, themes and information. The Final evaluation, feedback and reflection on your project.