The faces behind Islington Faces

  • 17
  • Sep

Everyone has a story, and no-one can prove that more than Nicola Baird and Kimi Gill. They are the pair behind the popular Islington Faces blog, which features the stories of 300 people who live or work in Islington.

Nicola, a freelance writer, has lived in Islington for the past 33 years. She set up the blog in 2012 to connect with neighbours and promote Islington’s diverse community.

“It linked up with the fact that I’m an environmentalist and was working with Friends of the Earth and really didn’t want to fly,” she said. “I realised I could get experience of Ethiopia, Algeria, Turkey, Ireland without leaving my borough, and I definitely have!”

Kimi joined Nicola two years ago to take photographs and they are now celebrating their first exhibition at Islington Museum, opening on Friday 5 April.

Inspiring Islington’ features photos and stories from the blog, along with items supplied by the ‘faces’ themselves. It is supported by a range of walks, talks and even a paddle-boarding event.

“It’s going to be the first paddleboard museum tour anywhere in the world!” Nicola says.

Putting the exhibition and programme of supporting events together has been a lot of work for the pair, who both work full-time jobs as well as creating the blog.

Kimi said: “We soon realised we would have to reshoot some of the photos to make them more suitable for an exhibition. I had to look for commonality and understand what it was that we were trying to show. Having the theme Inspiring Islington really helped as it allowed me to focus on this aspect of people’s characters and lives.

“The exhibition includes environmental portraits that visually convey what people do, combined with more traditional portraits that allow you to be drawn into the individual’s eyes, encouraging you to relate to them on a personal level,” she says.

Kimi retook a lot of the exhibition’s photos, but the effort and attention to detail has paid off, bringing the exhibition to life.

“I like to think of my work as a collaboration with a person or people.” she says. “We work together to produce an image that portrays some aspect of their character, a moment of truth, a glimpse into their world, shining a light on their perspective for one moment in time. I really enjoy the arena for connection that photography allows me, transient as that moment is, we produce an artefact that survives the moment. That is why displaying them in a museum seems somehow apt.”

Nicola says: “It really doesn’t matter where you live, or who you are, or how much money you’ve got, it’s possible to have a really enjoyable, quality life in Islington where people speak to you and you feel like you belong.

“This will be a very friendly version of an exhibition. It’s free and we’d love people to come along.”

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