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Placement: Catching Lives Open Centre

November 12, 2010

Reuben Ross

As part of our course, we are required to engage with the local community by collaborating with a local organization and producing a multimedia document that will contribute to their concerns and issues. This is part of a move towards creating a more engaged, public anthropology based on reflexivity, collaboration and advocacy. So, after several weeks trying to find a good placement location, today was my first visit to the Canterbury Open Centre, run by the independent Canterbury-based charity, Catching Lives.

The Canterbury Open Centre is staffed entirely by volunteers and is open from 9am until 1pm, Monday-Friday, to provide a variety of facilities to the homeless of Canterbury. This includes breakfast and lunch, showers and access to donated clothing. They also provide a mental health clinic, as well as dentist and GP services. I thought this would be a fascinating place to do a multimedia project that will not only benefit me, but the organization itself.

And so, today, I visited the Canterbury Open Centre after it had closed to the public and was shown around the building by Terry, the Deputy Service Manager. I brought a still camera with me, so that I could take photos of the location itself (a similar exercise to what we did in Week 1 of the course). As anthropologist and linguist Stephen Feld writes, “as place is sensed, senses are placed; as places make sense, senses make place.” I thought that getting a sense of the place – minus the people – would allow me to better understand the people themselves. They would clearly have their own senses of place and their own attitudes, feelings and associations with the Canterbury Open Centre so, perhaps, getting my own sense of place would help me understand this. What’s more, Jean Rouch writes in The Camera and Man that “the ethnologist should spend quite a long time in the field before undertaking the least bit of filmmaking.” This particularly influenced me in my approach; although there are obvious time constraints to this project, I thought I should not rush into it and, instead, take time to better understand the subject matter. Taking a few simple photos of the Canterbury Open Centre today, I think, allows me to do this.






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