Stephen Shaw - An Introduction

We recently invited Stephen Shaw to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he undertakes his MA in Photography at Lancaster University. In this post Stephen introduces us to his previous work and talks about his goals for his MA course.

We're looking forward to finding out more about Stephen and his work in his monthly blog posts right here on Photograd.


My name is Stephen Shaw I was raised on Grange Park with my Nan and Granddad, a council estate in Blackpool, nicknamed strange, where one has to mind ones fookin’ back.

I am a published social documentary, photographic artist and experimental writer who has just recently graduated with a first class honors degree in photography at Blackpool and the Fylde College.

The eye of the beholder rarely only sees beauty. If really looking, it will instead see despair, frailty, fear, loss, and a tremendous amount of imperfection. These are the things that I direct my lens towards: the human, the “raw and real” of life and society. I don’t seek to glamorize my subjects or their environment; I observe, assess, calculate and look, with declared empathy, from a distance, which is not only necessary to this photographic genre, but has the value of preserving dignity while maintaining the viewers curiosity for more.

Being passionate in documentary, it is always the little known subcultures on the edges of our society I am drawn to, these excite me, creating a beautiful document from danger is a great attraction. I am a deep constant thinker who always works to a deeply focused highly symbolic narrative within a street/documentary area alongside an ethnographic approach. 

My photographs always contain the unexpected, which I feel is a very important part of a good image and a factor that gives me great satisfaction.

I also always collect artefacts and record live audio with my sitters to increase my knowledge, build a rapport and grow a sense of personal creativity and subject aura that helps to drive me. My current practice researches the photographic representation of social justice and class, alongside social mobility and memorialism within my own environment. It is driven by intimate pain and so far contains four main projects consisting of Queens town. The Last 7. 

This project was focused on the last 7 people living on a recently demolished Blackpool high-rise flats. The images and sound document the way of life of these local inhabitants with a strong narrative of drugs, violence and suicide. 

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Images from the series Strange

Images from the series Strange

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These images are created in my own environment, Grange Park in Blackpool. It tells a story around its inhabitants regarding lives tragically cut short on the estate with a strong narrative made up of omens, portents and superstition.

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Images from the series The Gift

Images from the series The Gift

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This is piece of visual recording and storytelling that reaches into the depths of normalcy, certain to find its manifold inversions. With carefully calibrated doses of everydayness and disillusion, The Gift is a story of life and death, of desire and the inability to avoid it; a story of self-destruction brought on by the brutal honesty of repeatedly failed attempts at self-fulfillment.

I empathise with so many aspects of such vulnerability, as it is a personal reflection of myself, my 'black mirror', which I have had to endure.

The Gift photobook

The Gift photobook

I’m now, studying an MA at Central Lancashire University so this is my main concern at the moment. I wish to use it as a platform for a gallery exhibition and zeen publication around the old and new projects I am currently involved in. I am also looking for publishers hoping for my photo books to be published on a larger scale.

Arrival is a new project I am throwing myself into on the MA. It is set in well known train stations and council estates around the UK, I don’t want to give too much away just yet; you could see more on it in the near future and view my work here on my website.