The Salvation Army is renowned around the world (in more than 120 countries) for it's work with homeless and marginalised people, families and those struggling with the challenges of life. But it's MUCH more than that, as I've been reminding myself over the past months, while I've worked on an important book for The Salvation Army in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
I spent 7 years working for The Salvation Army, five of them as Head of Media (heading up the press office in London) until I returned to the life of the freelancer last year. It was an exciting and busy time and it was always a privilege to represent, work alongside and help the organisation which for 147 years has been impacting on and improving the lives of thousands of people every day.
But working on 'Portraits: A Month in the Life of The Salvation Army' was a real reminder to me, even though I was already close to the Christian 'movement', of just HOW much its people do, exactly why it is motivated to do what it does and why it is still so vital to the wellbeing of our British society.
We all think we know what The Salvation Army is and does, but that tends to concentrate on just a few aspects of the mission - as per my first paragraph! But what the Publishing Department at The Salvation Army wanted to show in this new publication is what the people on the ground do every day, what they think 'the Army' is in THEIR community and how they work out their Christian faith or Salvation Army roles where they are.
We asked people across The Salvation Army in the UK and Ireland to take and send in pictures, along with some notes and stories (and relevant 'clearance forms'). All pictures were to be taken during the month of October 2011 (the 'month' of the book's subtitle) and the result is a fascinating insight into the life of The Salvation Army, from the perspective of those working at grassroots of the movement.
This is the story of The Salvation Army but it's also the story of those involved - leaders and members of the Salvation Army church, friends, clients, employees, volunteers. It includes pictures from Salvation Army corps (churches) and communities, Lifehouses (re-settlement centres for people who've been homeless) Older People's care homes, training centres, outreach on the street and so much more. As part of the photographic project we did commission some photographs from a professional photographer (Paul Harmer) but the majority of the images in the resulting book come from those involved in the day-to-day ministry and work. 'Portraits: A Month in the Life of The Salvation Army' is THEIR story!
The book was published at the end of May 2012 to coincide with the centenary of the final public appearance of the Founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. So the publication is also the story of the legacy of William and his wife Catherine who created this international organisation which today still fights for social justice, puts its Christian faith into action and is committed to helping people not just with a 'handout' but with a 'handup'. A hundred years on, today's Salvation Army celebrated this final Booth event at the Albert Hall at the end of May 2012 with it's 'I'll Fight' Congress - and that's where we launched the book!
'Portraits: A Month in the Life of The Salvation Army' is a high quality (coffee table style) hardback book containing not just the images, but also explanatory text and inspirational quotes from the Booths and from those now living their legacy in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. With messages from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the current international leader of The Salvation Army, General Linda Bond, it's a good read! Even though I say it myself.
As the project manager, working on this photographic and book project from concept through to publication was a real privilege for me. My role started with communicating the project with the thousands of members, centres, corps, staff and friends in the UK and Ireland. I was primarily responsible for encouraging people to take photographs, collecting and collating the images, notes and stories (and other paperwork), sourcing historical references and writing text. I worked with the professional photographer, the designer (Robert Gould) and closely with The Salvation Army's Editor-in-chief (and co-author) Major Leanne Ruthven. And, finally, I profiled and sold the book at point of sale at the 'I'll Fight' Congress.
I hope you enjoy it!