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Dr Shawn Sobers

The idea of place and its relationship to identity has motivated, informed and permeated my work for as long as I have been interested in the arts. I am particularly interested in how the intersections between places and the crossing of boundaries impacts on notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ in relation to race and culture.

As a film maker I've directed documentaries for television which have explored these ideas, including ‘Footsteps of the Emperor’ (HTV, 1999 - exploring Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I’s five year stay in the city of Bath), ‘Under the Bridge’ (HTV, 2000 – how Bristol has started to come to terms with its involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade), and ‘Unfinished Business’ (BBC1, 2007 – Bristol and the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Parliamentary Act to abolish slavery). These and other films on place and identity have been produced by Firstborn Studios – (formally known as Firstborn Creatives) – the production company I co-founded in 1999 with Rob Mitchell.

As a writer & publisher I have explored these issues directly in fiction and non-fiction writing, including ‘Just Thinking: On Cities’, published in ‘Country Voices’ (1995, Anchor Books), ‘Silent Witness’ published in ‘Origins: Personal Stories of Crossing the Seas to Settle in Britain’ (1998, Origins Pub.), and ‘Myths, Facts and Feeling: Bristol & Transatlantic Slavery’ (2010, Firstborn Studios pub.). I have also written for specifically themed blogs on these themes such as &

As a photographer I am currently interested in place and identity in relation to self-portraiture. In my film and photography work I have always previously pointed the lens at other people to explore these ideas, but now at this juncture in my practice I see self portraiture as the viable means of this exploration, as my initial motivation all those years ago started with my own connection, fascination and contradictions in relation to place and (self) identity. I am also managing an Arts Council Funded project called ‘Hidden Presence’ with independent arts manager Ruth Hecht and researcher Dr Caroline Bressey (UCL), which will commission artists to produce work exploring the lives of African and Asian people who lived in the UK in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

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Dr Shawn Sobers

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