Working with local barber’s shops in Sandwell, Short, Black n Sides is an innovative project which enabled men from the black community to talk about, normalise and challenge the stigma surrounding mental health in their own communities. By working with local barbers, a positive message about mental well-being was able to reach across the local community. Alongside our work in barber’s shops, we partnered with photography students at Sandwell College who captured a series of images portraying life in the barber’s shops.

Changing Our Lives was invited to submit these images to the first ‘BLAST! Festival of Photography’ in the borough. The Short, Black n Sides multi-media exhibition featured an original barber’s chair from the 1980’s acquired from Hibiscus Barbers and a barber's red and white traditional pole, designed by one of the students. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to sit in the chair and view a digital exhibition of over 120 images whilst listening to an audio recording of the sounds of Shabz Barbers. This featured the owner talking about the history of his Cape Hill shop, with customers and barbers joining in with their stories.

“A really rich idea that engaged students giving them the opportunity to go above and beyond a standard college assignment. It produced a very strong set of work that was able to be shown to a wider audience and concluded by being part of a very prestigious inaugural photographic festival for the benefit of the Sandwell and wider arts communities. In simple terms it was a most enjoyable and rich project that we engaged in with Changing Our Lives and we thank you for the opportunity as well as your passion and proactive drive to keep it real and live.” 

Team Leader Photo Imaging, Sandwell College