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Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009
Young migrants put in the picture
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Gentle Mary Watches over the Plymouth Sea
Photograph entitled: Gentle Mary Watches over the Plymouth Sea

There are many ways of trying to get young people to open up about their experiences of life and religion.

The way Dr Sarah Dunlop is doing it is by photography to get young Polish migrants living in Plymouth to talk about their lives since leaving Poland.

And the images they captured are being showcased in an exhibition in the city opening on 21 November 2009.

"These photographs help to show a unique view of life in Plymouth from a Polish person's perspective," she said.

Dr Dunlop is looking at how important religion is to the growing Polish population of young people in Plymouth, as part of a project exploring the experience of migration to the UK.

"The photographs were taken by 14 young people from Poland, exploring what is sacred to them," said Dr Dunlop, who is from King's College.

The young person who took the photograph of Mary said about the image: "I believe in Mary and I think she is sacred. Sometimes I pray to her. When you are on the ocean, you feel so small, you know there has to be something else.

"Mary looks after people, similar to the way the lighthouse shines out a protective light."

I feel as though I have been introduced to myself
Wiktoria Niewiadomska

The project is a partnership between the Centre for the Study of Theology, Religion and Culture at King's College London and Christ the King, the Catholic Student Chaplaincy in Plymouth and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

"The young people communicate first through their photographs and then through interviews about their pictures," said Dr Dunlop.

"Through this method highly personal stories are uncovered about spirituality and hopes for the future."

Dr Dunlop said that she was also surprised at some of imagery the young people - aged between 18 and 35 - uncovered in the city.

"They found some statues of Mary that I have never seen before, one by Devil's Point and one on the Barbican," she said.

Why Religion Matters to Young Polish MIgrants Project
Another image in the exhibition

"It so fascinating that they come to Plymouth and very quickly see these Catholic images.

"The work brings together the Roman Catholic Chaplaincy, Plymouth Arts Centre and me and will hopefully pave the way for future collaboration."

Dr Dunlop's research will be complete late in 2010 but she is struck already by some of the results.

"So far the research has been very interesting, religion provides social capital as well as acting as a real comfort and reminder of home.

"The majority of young people have found practising their religion a great support since coming here but a few have actually felt more comfortable being in a country which is not dominated by religion."

One of the participants, Wiktoria Niewiadomska, said taking part had been a "great experience".

"I feel as though I have been introduced to myself," she said.

There will be 29 images in the exhibition - Why Religion Matters To Young Polish Migrants - which runs for a fortnight from 21 November at Plymouth Roman Catholic Cathedral.

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