Alice Wills

University: University of Huddersfield

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Landscape Fine Art

Websitewww.alicewillsphotography.com

Artist StatementDeluge is a landscape project based within the Lake District. It focuses on the concept of childhood memories within an ever changing world and the realisation that nothing ever stays the same. I have revisited places from my own childhood and explored feelings such as nostalgia, loss and compassion. I have used the recent flooding in Cumbria as an underlying theme in this project with the movement of water acting as a metaphor for the constant change our lives go through.

From the series Deluge

From the series Deluge

What are some standout moments from your time at university? One of the first exciting moments for me at university was to exhibit my work in our final year show. I exhibited one final image at A0 size which is the biggest I've ever seen my own work - it was a really exciting process planning the exhibition and finally getting to to see my work printed and displayed at such high quality. Another standout moment was being given the Dean's Award for Creative Practice. It felt like such an honour to be awarded this out of everyone from my year, especially considering the standard of work that my fellow students were all producing. 

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I would say my work is landscape fine art. I used to see myself as more of a commercial landscape photographer, starting off my interest in photography by capturing the Lake District fells and lakes, with the hope of my images one day being featured on local magazines and tourist board websites. However, as my practice has progressed I have found myself to go further down the fine art route, finding more unusual ways to represent place and steering away from conventional landscape images.

From the series Deluge

From the series Deluge

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I often find myself creating work based around my childhood and the place I call home. I enjoy exploring the sense of belonging and personal connections that people can make to certain places. I feel very attached to my home town Kendal and the Lake District surrounding it, and I love to share my fascination with this place with other people.

What visual and theoretical influences did you have whilst making this body of work? I looked at the work of many different artists while beginning to create this project, including Casper David Freidrich, Elina Brotherus, Susan Derges and John Gossage, but it was Jitka Hanzlova's project Forest that really changed something in me. This work really inspired me and made me think a lot more about my own connections to the landscape and the personal aspects to the project. I was also heavily influenced by William Wordsworth's poetry about the Lake District - I was fascinated by the way he described the landscape and it was evident that he loved the Lakes and felt very connected to the places he wrote about.

From the series Deluge

From the series Deluge

What encouraged you to create work based around places from your childhood? I have always been quite a nostalgic person and really enjoy looking through old photos and reminiscing how things used to be. It is this part of me that wants to explore these memories through photography and investigate how things really change over time. This project allowed me to delve into my past and discover my own feelings in more depth, and record how certain places differ from my memories of them. 

How do you see your work progressing post graduation? I would like to continue working within the Lake District to begin with, and create more projects showing my connection to the place but exploring it from different angles. I have also really enjoyed creating a project heavily influenced by poetry, so this is something I will definitely continue and hope to produce more work based on classic poetry, novels, and myths and see what sort of projects come out of it.

What childhood memories have you portrayed in some of your images? In this project I have portrayed general memories of exploring the Lake District as a child. I would often go for days out with my family as a little girl, running ahead playing with my older sister in our own imaginary world. I remember thinking the forests and lakes were huge and went on forever, like something out of a storybook. It all seemed so magical and fantastical to me, but now I'm older I can see the reality - the Lakes is still a very beautiful place but it's not as indestructible as I used to think.

From the series Deluge

From the series Deluge

What is your usual choice of camera equipment and why? On my everyday hikes and trips into the fells I usually take my Canon 70D with my Tamron 18-200 and Canon 10-18 lenses. I very rarely carry a tripod as it's extra weight and I like to be spontaneous with taking photos instead of having to stop and set up a tripod all the time. I have a growing collection of film cameras too so sometimes I take one of those out with me - my favourites are my Olympus Trip 35 and my Agfa Optima. For my project Deluge I actually used a medium format Mamiya 645DF. I chose this for the exceptional image quality as I wanted the best quality possible for my final university project. It was a great camera to use but the downside was how heavy it was - not ideal for carrying up fells all day!

How have you found photographing places you’re familiar with; have you got any tips you can share? There are some places in the Lakes that I know like the back of my hand and visiting there feels like going home. I can wander around these locations all day, losing track of time but never feeling lost. However, no matter how many times I have visited a place it is easy to discover something new - maybe something physical like a hidden footpath I had always overlooked, or new emotions that the place makes me feel. My advice is to never take for granted the places on your doorstep that you think you know so well. More often than not, the more time you spend in these places, the more you'll realise you don't actually know them at all. There is always so much to explore!

From the series Deluge

From the series Deluge

As your work is heavily influenced by poetry, have you ever considered displaying text alongside your images? I have often played with the idea of displaying text alongside my images, and in the book version of Deluge I do actually include some quotes from Wordsworth's poems that were the most influential to my work. I think sometimes text can be distracting if there is a lot of it and I like to give my images a chance to speak for themselves. I don't often caption my images either as I find it more interesting to hear how other people interpret my images, rather than me telling them how to look at each one.

Can you talk to us more about your new work which is much more influenced by poetry and novels? How do you translate an inspirational piece of text into your own photograph? Deluge is the first project of mine where I have been heavily influenced by text - more specifically poetry. With this project I wanted to portray my love for the Lake District and I found it really helpful to read accounts from other people who were as much affected and in love with the Lakes as myself. William Wordsworth lived in the Lakes for most of his life and the majority of his work is written about this area. Exploring the way in which he described the landscape helped me to look at things with a different perspective and focus on the smaller details which come together to create an overall experience. Wordsworth often wrote about sounds, colours, smells and emotions that he experienced in the landscape and by bringing all these small things together he created a very vivid image of the Lake District. I translated this into my own work by steering away from conventional landscape photography showing wide open and impressive scenery, and instead I focused on the intimate details that make each location unique. The abstract style of some of my images helps to create a poetic feel to the work - this is intended to help the viewer lose themselves in the images and have a more intimate and imaginative experience, piecing together the details from each photograph and creating their own idea of what the overall landscape looks like.