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The University of Southampton

A Portrait of Care exhibition breaks down stereotypes and stigma of being in care

Published: 26 October 2020
Image from A Portrait of Care
Self-portraits of those with experience of care feature in the exhibition 'A Portrait of Care'.

A new online exhibition curated by a PhD researcher at the University of Southampton is tackling the negative connotations associated with being ‘in care’ through photos and stories from people with first-hand experience.

The original idea for ‘A Portrait of Care’ - available on Instagram - comes from Rosie Canning, a writer and Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Southampton together with Dr Aoife O’Higgins from What Works for Children's Social Care and the University of Southampton’s Outreach team.

The ‘living’ exhibition, which coincides with National Care Leavers Week 2020 (26 October – 1 November) features people of many age groups, from young to middle-aged and older contributors. Instagram was selected as the platform in order to improve accessibility of the exhibition which was originally scheduled for a physical gallery space but moved online because of the pandemic.


Rosie, whose PhD is focused on the representation of orphans and care leavers in literature, hopes that the exhibition will tackle the negative connotations associated with being ‘look after’ head-on in a creative way. She is appealing to people who work with children in care as well as those who are care-experienced or care leavers themselves to use the exhibition as an opportunity to define themselves through their photos and brief messages - participants do not need to reveal details of their care status.

“Almost every care-experienced person comes into contact with discrimination at one point in their lives because of their background,” Rosie explains. “By using portraits, we would hope to de-stigmatise the experience of care as a way to improve perceptions and general public awareness. You cannot tell a person’s care experience from a photograph.”

“What I’m hoping is that the inner pre-conceived stereotypes people may have about children in care and care leavers will come to the fore and when looking at the portraits and reading about the variety of people who take part, possibly help others to re-evaluate their own thoughts as well as get pleasure from seeing such an array of care experiences,” she continues.

The exhibition ‘A Portrait of Care’ is available here.

Please click here if you wish to contribute your own portrait and story to the exhibition.

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