Fiona Filipidis - To make a prairie

For the duration of March we were seeking work from photography graduates alongside Loupe Magazine to reward with a collection of prizes and interviews. A lot of time was spent looking through the submissions and decisions were finally made. Here we present you with our final runner-up!

Fiona Filipidis was born in Paris and later studied for a BA in Photography in France before moving to study for an MA at London College of Communication. We've interviewed Fiona here about the series To make a prairie.


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

Emily Dickinson

Will revery alone really do if bees are few? As much as I love to daydream, I’m afraid the answer is a resounding, gut-wrenching ‘NO’. Bees are crucial to the continuation of human life. But our impact on the environment through the misuse of insecticides, added to the proliferation of pests and diseases and loss of habitat, is threatening the survival of this mighty insect. When bees have access to good nutrition, so do we – you can thank them for one in three bites of food you eat – and yet every batch of pollen has at least six pesticides in it.

From poetry to politics, religion to architecture, the honey bee has managed to waggle-dance itself into every nook and cranny of the human world. Our relationship with the bee is one that spans thousands of years, and I have attempted to synthesise it in one single book.

 From the series  To make a prairie

From the series To make a prairie

I divided this book into 6 chapters, each one edited in a specific way: a piece of writing is preceded by a full-page image and followed by a selection of images in relation to the text. The full-page images are of the stormy skies that descended over London on 16th October 2017, when hurricane Ophelia made her way to our shores. All I could hear and read at the time was “It’s the end of the world!” and I couldn’t help but find a parallel with what could potentially happen if bees were to become extinct. The texts are a mix of personal life experiences and detailed knowledge about the honey bee and its history in relation to us.

The imagery is a mix of found artefacts and my own photographs. Mingling the past with the present is my way of showing our constant and ever-growing relationship with the honey bee. My hope is that there is something for everyone in this book; if a teenager were to pick it up and see a photo of Beyoncé, I would love for it to peak their curiosity and push them to do a little bit of digging.

This project is more relevant now than ever. Every day, news articles emerge with ever-growing alarming headlines about bees and insects in general. We humans hold the fate of the wee honey bee in our millions of hands. By some unimaginable, intangible natural power, we have been given the gift of life, and it is our duty to make sure all living entities that share our cosmos continue on the path they were meant to take.

 From the series  To make a prairie

From the series To make a prairie

Can you introduce yourself? What and where did you study? What's your motto? I am a 28 year-old multicultural photographer who grew up in the leafy suburbs of Paris, France. My dad is half-French, half-Greek and my mum is half-English, half-Scottish. I have Portuguese relatives and grew up surrounded by friends from all over the globe, which I feel all greatly contributed to my openness and curiosity for the world. 

I studied for a BA in Photography in Paris before moving to the UK to pursue an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication, from which I graduated this past January. 

I have never had to think about a motto before, but maybe “laughter is the best medicine”! I love a good chuckle. 

 From the photobook  To make a prairie

From the photobook To make a prairie

Give us an overview of your work. What themes do you like to explore? My most recent projects are all related to nature and the environment in one way or another. Prior to To make a prairie, I was working on an image/text concept book called El Dorado which deals with the notion of gold in its broadest of meanings, whether it be physical or purely metaphorical, and What do you want to be when you grow up? which portrays our desire to reconnect with nature through a humorous, albeit slightly strange, depiction of my fantasized mother/daughter relationship with Phoebe, my favourite houseplant.

I always try to add an element of humour or levity to my projects and my writing, as I have come to realise that it helps people react to and interact with my work on a different level. I believe that you don’t always have to show the negative aspects of any given situation in order to bring awareness to it. I find the idea of talking about important issues contrasted with an underlying light-hearted tone to be a very interesting one that I would love to push further.

I recently came across an article written by Tim Davis on photogeliophobia, or the fear of funny photography, in which he states that, “The history of photography’s overall overseriousness starts to feel like a first date that can’t laugh at the ketchup he’s spilled in his lap.” And the combination of spilt ketchup and the noise the bottle makes while doing so is more often than not quite amusing.

 From the series  To make a prairie

From the series To make a prairie

What encouraged you to submit to the Loupe Magazine and Photograd call for work? Have you got any tips for photographers submitting work for similar opportunities? Getting your work out there is the tricky part upon graduating, as you want to use the momentum you’ve gathered throughout the year to propel you and keep pushing for your work to be seen. Photograd is the ideal platform to start, as you’re only a graduate once (or twice). I have been following the website for years now and have always been amazed by the quality of the photographic projects you choose to publish, and feel humbled to be in such great company. I am also excited whenever I come across new platforms such as Loupe Magazine, as I believe there can never be enough websites and magazines to showcase emerging talent. So the combination of both seemed perfect!

My main piece of advice would be to keep applying to calls and competitions, even if the constant rejections can cause you to lose hope (which I have lost on many occasions, but keeps returning again and again). I find being organised to also be very useful; I have monthly lists organised by closing dates on my desktop so that I know when I need to apply for calls, residencies, competitions, grants, and what to send.

 From the photobook  To make a prairie

From the photobook To make a prairie

How did this series come to the surface? Why did you decide to make work around our relationship with bees? It was all very coincidental, really, as most projects usually are! I was chatting with one of my tutors from LCC, Morag Livingstone, about what I could work on next when she, quite bluntly, asked me, “What pisses you off and what brings you joy?”. I realised there and then that a natural theme underlined all of my answers, and she saw my eyes light up when I told her about hives being kept on rooftops in the middle of Paris. I had also, like many other people, received dozens of email petitions to “Save the Bees” but had never given them much thought. And I had been struck by a photograph that was doing the rounds on Facebook at the time, showing what the fruit and veg aisle of a supermarket would look like if bees were to become extinct. So I started my research and within a couple of days that was it, I was hooked, all I could think of were bees, bees, bees. In my book, I quote British beekeeper R. O. B. Manley who defines bee fever as “a form of insanity from which you never really recover”, and to my great delight I think I’ve caught the bug, too. 

 From the photobook  To make a prairie

From the photobook To make a prairie

The outcome of To make a prairie is a photobook. Describe your book and particular layout of images. I divided To make a prairie into 6 chapters, each edited in a specific way: a piece of writing is preceded by a full-page image and followed by a selection of images in relation to the text. The full-page images are of the stormy skies that descended over London last October, when hurricane Ophelia made her way over here and people kept saying that it felt like the end of the world; I couldn’t help but find a parallel with what could potentially happen if bees were to become extinct. The texts are a mix of personal life experiences and detailed knowledge about the honey bee and its history in relation to us. And the pictures are a mix of found archival imagery and my own photographs. The image pairings are often comical and bounce off one another as I wanted to constantly excite the reader’s eye and not let it become accustomed to one type of image. My hope is that there is something for everyone in this book; if a teenager were to pick it up and see a photo of Beyoncé, I would love for it to pique their curiosity and push them to do a little bit of digging. As for the cover, the bee drawing was created by my cousin’s 5-year-old daughter, Caitlin. 

Was it important that you executed this work in the form of a photobook? Yes, I knew from the start that the final form of this project would be a book. I am an avid photobook reader, collector and admirer. I spend a good amount of time looking at sequencing, layouts, papers, binding techniques and feel genuine joy when I come across a book which excites both my eyes and my fingers! I had always wanted to make a book from start to finish, from the image making to the editing to the design of it, and saw this project as the perfect opportunity to do so. 

 From the series  To make a prairie

From the series To make a prairie

What are your future plans? I am currently trying to publish, or self-publish, To make a prairie, as well as working on a zine about a trip I took to California in February. In about a month’s time I will be doing a 3-week artist residency in northern Italy with Ardesia Projects and Jest, a photography gallery in Turin, which I am very excited about. And I will forever be working on researching bees in order to fully live up to my “bee-lady” image!