I’m not a dog on a chain

reading time: 5 Minutes

“People can’t see mental health conditions or autism. It’s not like a broken leg. That’s what I’d like to get across.” Saffron was one of five participants on the CALM x 1854 Committee on Homeless Facts, and was once homeless. Here, she offers a window into her life

Saffron lives in Brixton, south London, in an apartment she shares with her pet cat and dog. The latter, JoJo, is a racy Dalmatian, and the subject of a series of Polaroids picked up by Saffron during lockdown. “My animals are the closest thing I’ve ever gotten to a real family,” she says, explaining the inspiration behind the photos.

With a brief to create a series of photos that reflect the person behind the lens, to shoot JoJo – one of the things Saffron cherishes – I felt a good fit. “Jojo saved my life during lockdown,” says Saffron. “It gave me a sense of purpose and kept me healthy whenever I felt lonely or sad.” Photo series titled I’m not a dog on a chain, referring to Saffron’s favorite music album, Morrissey.

Over the course of several months, Saffron worked alongside photographer Inzajeano Latif as part of a panel organized by Campaign against miserable living (CALM) – a UK-based charity working to prevent suicide – in association with 1854. Through the medium of photography, the project provides insight into the lives of those who have experienced homelessness in London. Latif mentored Saffron over the course of three months, providing her with photography guidance, while also creating his own body of work that explores the lives of each of the project’s participants.

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Saffron Saidi 2021

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Saffron Saidi 2021

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“[The images are] Fun and fun. They show a really cool side of saffron. She has this rudeness about her, this sense of humor.”

Nice Inzagino

Abstract Polaroid Saffron. They are often fleeting and texturally attractive. In some photos, only the dog’s coat spots make his subject recognizable. In other cases, the dog is in the foreground, and glimpses of life lie in the background. Saffron describes the work as “abstract, imaginative, authoritative.” For Latif, the photos are “hilarious and fun. They show a really cool side of Saffron.” She has such rudeness about her, such sense of humor.”

Saffron’s interest in photography began at an early age. Her grandfather bought her her first camera when she was still in school, and I’ve taken pictures of her ever since. “I loved photography because I never felt confident drawing,” Saffron says. “If I draw something, it must be exactly as my eyes have seen it or else I will be angry. But painting is different. I see things that others cannot.” In her late twenties, Saffron enrolled in a photography course at Falmouth University, but unfortunately was unable to complete the course. Nevertheless, photography remains a source of happiness for saffron. A preoccupation that you keep coming back to.

Saffron was diagnosed with autism three years ago. Now in her forties, she has lived most of her life undetected. “[Having a diagnosis] It made me analyze things in the past,” she says, “like the way the staff at the children’s home, adoptive parents and teachers were treated. I feel as if she ruined my life. I was punished for my behavior, but it was actually autism.”

“My autistic friends have safer backgrounds,” she continues. “I have never met another person with autism who has the lifestyle I used to lead. It puts things in a different perspective.” The lifestyle that saffron talks about has many threads. Her childhood was often difficult. “My menstrual periods were really painful,” she says. “My father was schizophrenic and often acted very strangely, and I lost my mother at a young age.” Saffron spent the majority of her childhood in care. She experienced bouts of homelessness as a child with her father; Later, between classes at the university, she was surfing. Throughout her life, Saffron also suffered from mental health issues.

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1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Inzajeano Latif 2021

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There is an irony in saffron’s love of photography. Many of us take pictures to document and then look back at a moment in time. But due to various challenges and periods of instability in her life, Saffron has very few pictures of her own. She says, “I didn’t get a picture of my mum or dad, or any photographs of myself when I was younger. Nothing. I found a picture on Facebook of my mum when I was a little girl.” In the photo, Saffron’s mother wears her hair in braids. Now, Saffron wears her hair in braids too.

The project was a positive experience for Saffron, but it did not come without its challenges. Occurring in the midst of a pandemic, when much of the UK was confined to their homes, Saffron was not given the logistical freedom to set up the working group that she would have performed in other circumstances. From the outside looking in, the series is very intimate and personal. But as for Saffron, she worries about her inadequacy.

“It’s fair to say that Saffron was a bit upset with her photos. She’s the type to always want to do more; that’s what she got,” says Latif. “I told her, these are tough times. She had all the other burdens, all the other pressures, so I said, “Just do what you can do in the moment.” Seeing her photos today, she is really special.”

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Saffron Saidi 2021

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Inzajeano Latif 2021

“People can’t see mental health conditions or autism. It’s not like a broken leg. That’s what I’d like to get across.”

Saidi saffron

When asked what she wants people to take away from her photos, and her story as told here, Saffron doesn’t hesitate: “I want people to understand that it’s very difficult to do something like this when you’re experiencing multiple things at the same time,” “People can’t see mental health conditions.” Or autism. It’s not like a broken leg. That’s what I’d like to get across.”

As a suicide prevention charity, much of CALM’s work focuses on encouraging open discussions about mental health. “We know that in some places there is still an old and wrong view that being open about our emotional health is a sign of weakness,” says Simon Ganning, CEO of CALM. “And it’s not always clear that someone has a mental health problem. But the more we talk about it, and the more we get used to being open about what we’re going through, [then] As much as we can as a society [offer] Support when we need it. That’s why CALM is working to challenge stereotypes, and challenge the stigma that prevents people from talking about suicide and mental health.”

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Saffron Saidi 2021

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Saffron Saidi 2021

1854 x CALM: The Homeless Facts © Saffron Saidi 2021

Today, creativity is still an important part of saffron’s life. She is involved in cafe art, an organization that empowers artists who have experienced homelessness through projects and exhibitions, as well as volunteering at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her participation in the Homeless Facts Committee was not just someone with an interest in photography, but as a photographer familiar with the art form; Reply to a new feed using a different tool.

And again: “Taking pictures of my dog ​​is very important as an artist,” says Saffron. “Lots of artists have pets. Andy Warhol had 30 cats. Hockney had Dachshund painted, Picasso had Dalmatians.” As for saffron? Well, she has jojo.

For more information visit CALM (Campaign Against Miserable Life)

Each of the participants’ projects will be published in 1854 Photography this week. All of them received compensation for their work.

cafe art, an organization that empowers homeless artists in London and has evolved, a housing and support charity, was instrumental in finding and supporting the individuals who participated in this project. CALM also has She helped support the participants throughout the project and will continue to support them after the campaign.

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Explore the full project here:

Find out more about 1854 x CALM – Homeless Facts Committee:

The publication I’m Not a Dog on a Series first appeared in 1854 photographic.

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