One Day At A Time Boys is an art project based in Damien John Kelly House (DJK), a recovery community for men based in Liverpool, offering a program of support based in the arts, sport and culture. DJK embraces recovery values of willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness within a creative setting. They explore how the lessons they learn in art can be applied to real-life examples in their recovery, whether it be through the lens, through writing, painting or drawing. They celebrate their community, get curious about their individuality whilst documenting their personal growth and shared experience.
In this body of work, the lads have responded by selecting images and writing on the role photography has in their community, what it means to individuals and how it helps to tell their story.
Photography can be a tool for building trust, creating comfort and challenging discomfort. It can bring about a sense of agency and pride. A Look At A New Perspective is precisely that, the title coming from Paul, one of the lads, in his response to these ideas. This encapsulates what they do in art and in their recovery: they take a look, step into unfamiliarity, get out of their comfort zone, and every time they do, their comfort zone gets bigger. They learn together, celebrate together, love together, create together and recover together.
Art saves, it allows new passions to develop, it binds the community and helps form a solid sense of culture. One Day At A Time Boys invite you to take a look, too.
Liam: “At DJK, you’re never too far away from a camera or someone putting a camera in your face. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable having a camera pointed at you. I don’t particularly like it because it feels like the attention or focus is all on me, and that’s something that makes me feel uncomfortable, but when it’s one of the other residents taking my picture, it feels a bit different. We’re 17 fellas, all from different backgrounds but with similar stories, all living under one roof, so there’s a very strong bond and a lot of trust between us so I don’t mind it as much when one of the lads starts taking pictures of me. We could be taking pictures for an art project or at events that the lads are involved in, such as poetry nights, or even just messing around taking pictures and having a laugh. We’re capturing proper memories with the camera.”
Jonny: “Photography was new to us all, with a mixed response from the group originally. What at first felt awkward soon turned to laughs and a connection between men I’d never experienced before. Our community is strongly focused on honesty and vulnerability, so getting up close and personal with a camera came easy. One of the exercises we did early on was taking pictures of each other and then sharing what we saw in the man in the photograph – one man’s opinion on
another man highlighting the good qualities they might not see in themselves and appreciate. Reminiscing on old family photos and how technology has changed, our insecurities around being photographed were all talking points. Sometimes all is not what it seems when you think about instagram and social media, but being together as a group using photography brought out a trust in each other and honesty, helping to overcome our insecurities and fears. Through photography, we have had laughs and heartfelt moments together, and now is a massive part of our recovery as we document all our adventures and progress. Sharing this with these lads is a beautiful thing.”
Matt: “Taking pictures is just the medium we use to have fun together. That’s all it boils down to for me: having fun together. It goes onto a hobby (or more) for some and not for others. Sharing in the activity gives everyone a reason to be there and be connected. It doesn’t have to be photography or even art; if you’re ever lonely, ask someone to do a thing with you. The ‘thing’ could be the shittest thing ever to do, but at least you’re doing it together – connected.”
Micheal: “It’s fascinating seeing everyone in the house have their own style of picture they like to take. For example, Chopper likes random action shots, Jamie likes close-ups of people’s faces, and Wesley likes to take a picture with a certain filter on his phone. Seeing everyone come into the house, myself included, so insecure about the way they look – to what we are like today, just allowing pictures to be taken without even flinching. It is a massive compliment to the bond and trust we have all built up in our community. There really is no place like it.”
John: “Photos. Photos of me. Oh no, I’m going to have to see myself at some point? I’ll be shown myself and expected to comment on the memory of that moment in time. That used to be my thought process around photographs. Wanting to stay hidden away in the world, but then having someone wanting to make a permanent record of me for potentially the entire world to see, least for me to see, was an awful experience. My gut would churn with anxiety over the thought of having my picture taken. Everything I hated about myself would be there for people to see whenever they wanted to. What would they do when they saw what I saw in my reflection? Would they laugh at the way I looked? Would they show the photo to other people so that they could laugh, too? Would they perhaps even dismiss me, not even look at the photo and then move on to a picture of somebody else, because that person is more interesting or better looking or looks more fun and engaging?
I don’t have those worries so much these days. The idea of what photography is has changed. I think it has changed because of the community I’m a part of. I know people’s intentions when they take a photograph of me. They’re not doing it so that they can ridicule me in the future, they’re doing it because I’m one of them. The picture isn’t about me, it’s about my place within the community. I trust people to take a photo of me and trust that the reason they are doing it is because we share a common interest and a bond. The photo isn’t taken to single me out, it is taken to make me feel more a part of.”
Image: One Day At A Time Boys, 2023