Strong Voices Result in Stunning New Photographic Exhibition

February 4, 2015

A powerful new photographic exhibition showcasing the innovative and inspiring work of teenagers with autism is due to open at Royal Armouries Museum at Fort Nelson, in partnership with local organisations.

For three months, Fort Nelson’s education team has been supporting a joint arts project with Portsmouth Autism Support Network, comprising a group of parents of young people with an autistic spectrum disorder.

The pioneering work has enabled 16 teenagers to work with Butterfly FX, a company of artists, to produce stunning images, through an experimental art form know as light graffiti. The photographs were inspired by some of the key exhibits from Royal Armouries’ national collection of artillery – the big guns – and the 19th century Fort’s architecture, including the underground tunnels.

The project was commissioned and supported by Artwork, the South East Bridge organisation, through its Strong Voices programme. This organisation aims to address the social, cultural and economic barriers that often prevent families and young people in the most deprived areas of Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant from engaging with museums and cultural organisations.

Lisa Calder from the digital arts and moving image organisation, Butterfly FX, explained, “Light painting, also known as light graffiti and light art photography, uses long exposure photography and the movement of handheld lights. It is lots of fun and an experimental art form that allows people to create amazing images. It can be done individually, or as a group, and many effects can be incorporated into a single picture.

“We provide projects that allow people to experiment and learn through creativity. We also specialise in interpreting and exploring heritage, through storytelling, animation, film and photography.”

Fort Education Officer Eileen Clegg added, “Royal Armouries is delighted to be hosting this exhibition which will allow the teenagers to showcase their innovative and stunning works of art.

“For young people with autism, visiting a museum or gallery can be a barrier in itself – they are teenagers, first and foremost, and don’t necessarily want to visit places with their parents in tow but they do need support when visiting somewhere new. With the help of partner organisations, we have been able to enable them to explore both the museum’s collection and photographic techniques in depth. The project’s success is evidenced by the incredibly high standard of the work which is now going on public display.”

The project has also won the praise of the teenage participants themselves. Feedback included:

Jack – “The project was amazing because I got to experiment with lights. A highlight was working in one of the Fort’s Victorian tunnel.”

Pierre – “I liked experimenting with the lights and producing the outcome. I used the wave style in my work. Looking back at the images gives me a relaxed and therapeutic feeling. I think our images would work wonderfully on a pc desktop and would be great material for photo editing.”

Andrew – “My favourite part was seeing the basic first picture and changing some of the elements to create a better shot.”

Light Fever runs from Sunday, February 8 to Saturday, February 21. Exhibition entry, museum admission and parking are absolutely free and visitors can explore the 19-acre Fort, home to the national collection of artillery. The museum includes new, state-of-the-art galleries and showcases some of the world’s finest examples of firepower, from across the ages.”

For more details about the Royal Armouries and the national collection housed at Fort Nelson, visit