Photograd interviews Yves Salmon

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we have interviewed some photography graduates from the submissions received for the Photograd blog. Here we have an interview with University of Westminster graduate Yves Salmon.


Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I graduated from University of Westminster’s Documentary Photography & Photojournalism course in 2017

Image from the series  Moat

Image from the series Moat

Tell us about your time at university. Have you got any stand out moments you can tell us about? It seems such a long time ago now, but as a part-time student my best memories are around having access to some good teachers as well as visiting photographers, curators and designers who shared their knowledge and industry experience with us.

I’ve made some good friends with whom I plan to collaborate with in the future.

The photographic library on the Harrow campus was a big selling point for me. It is a haven but also research across all subject matters was possible because we could borrow from all the different campuses.

Image from the series  Moat

Image from the series Moat

What themes do you explore in your work? On the whole I am interested in journeys that people make, the distance they’ve traveled isn’t the biggest factor. It’s more about their expectations of the place they are going to, what they’ve left behind and the emotional impact of their decision to (sometimes) up root their lives. Testimony is an integral part of my practice so most projects are started with an interview, either oral or in the form of a questionnaire.

Tell us about your series. What inspired you to make work around Brexit? The inspiration for the project came from a conversation with a friend (an EU national) who spoke about his profound shock on 24 June at the result of the referendum. For many people the outcome was felt on a deep personal level. It was a rejection of them as human beings and of the contribution they had made to the UK. Many have been here for decades, raised families and have worked and paid taxes. They felt as though that all counted for nothing.

Image from the series  Moat

Image from the series Moat

How did you find people to photograph? Tell us about your process. I am a born and bred Londoner and I live in the London Borough of Hackney which is one of the most diverse in the city.

The gift of London is that people have journeyed from around the world to be here so there are many local stories to be told. I asked neighbours and friends and I put out a call letting people know that I was looking for people willing to share their thoughts and feelings and be photographed.

For the portraits I rented a space in my local library over a set period and people selected a time within that which suited them. For the interviews I sent them a ten question form which they were free to fill in, however long or short the answers, in their own time.

I knew the end result was not going to be a straight forward Q & A with each image. The responses were not going to be attributed to a specific person.

Image from the series  Moat

Image from the series Moat

What's important about the flowers you've chosen for each image? Each flower is a national flower of the 27 remaining countries in the EU. Some countries share the same flowers so there is repetition but this was dealt with by using different illustrations. They were selected from the collection at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and are all dated between 1837 and 1901 a period which was the height of Empire.

I chose the botanical illustration that I felt was most suited to the composition and the sitter’s expression so this part of the process was intuitive.

Depending on the outcome of Brexit and the future of the UK, where do you see your work taking you in the future? Whether I make landscapes, portraits or still-lifes, I am aware of certain themes that inform my documentary work. Migration and identity and the emotional issues around those themes. I will also continue to incorporate a botanical element into my work, either through the language of botany or using alternative photographic processes.

Image from the series  Moat

Image from the series Moat

Pick one of your images and tell us about the sitter. Despite the viewer being able to see the sitter’s face I have deliberately not identified any one individual. There are approximately 3 million EU nationals living and working in the United Kingdom. The project is about creating a collective voice.

What would you like for viewers to learn from your work? Alongside the portraits there are two books that accompany the images as well as ten anthotypes containing newspaper headlines from UK and foreign press. The books are in the form of ten chapters and these contain the answers to the questionnaire. Interwoven with the answers are ten botanical terms along with their definitions. These are words we also use in the the vernacular, such as stigma, marginal and hybrid.

Image from the series  Moat

Image from the series Moat

This piece of work is layered and everyone will have their own interpretation of the work. Therefore it is not my intention to teach the viewer anything. Perhaps it will encourage people to think about how and why we categorise people and the impact of that categorisation.

Have you got any exciting future plans? Like many people, I have lots of ideas but trying to decide what to pursue next is always difficult. I’ve just had a UV lightbox made so I’m going to finish a project I started last year. Imagery and text are at the forefront of that and it is about work, migration and London.

Also I am collaborating with a fellow MA graduate and we are currently conducting research for a London specific project.