An interview with Photograd Open 2018 exhibiting photographer Katie Hayward

Photography students at London Metropolitan University supported in the curation of our very first open exhibition and also selected a number of exhibiting photographers to interview about their work.

Here we have an interview with Katie Hayward.


How would you describe your project and relationship to the title Between Darkness and Light? Between Darkness and Light is an observation of the landscape of the coastal town of Lowestoft in Suffolk. The town occupies the most easterly point of the country and so is positioned as one of its extremities. The body of work seeks to provide a subtle acknowledgement of industries won and lost over time, giving a glimpse into Lowestoft’s tumultuous past and tentative future. It is a town, like many in the UK, forced to live through governmental decisions made at a distance, which directly impact upon the communities that live and work there. While our government negotiates for our exit from the European Union, potentially using our fishing waters as the bargaining tool, this is more prominent now than ever before in this town.

 From the series  Between Darkness and Light

From the series Between Darkness and Light

The title of the project is derived from my research into the writings of W. G. Sebald and his book titled The Rings of Saturn whereby he narrates his journey along the East Coast.  When describing his experience of Lowestoft, he recalls looking out towards the sea through a bay window of the dining room of his rather lacklustre hotel, stating that “Outside was the beach, somewhere between the darkness and the light” (Sebald, P.43). These words resonated with me as they seemed to fit with the general essence of the place that I had experienced and also politically, socially, economically and emotionally in a metaphorical sense.  

What was the inspiration for the project? I had developed a genuine interest in the concept of place photographically and having recently moved to the East Coast I was curious to see how documenting a place with which I had no knowledge of, or emotional connection to, would impact upon the images I produced at the other end. Would my photographic exploration create an emotional connection or attachment of sorts or would my role in documenting it keep me distanced from it? This was the catalyst for starting the project. 

How has the course at the University of Suffolk shaped your practice? When I started my course at the University of Suffolk, we were taken right back to basics with 35mm black and white film where we learned to develop and print our own work.  This really helped me connect with where photography had grown from and allowed me to join the dots with where photography is now.  I had never stepped foot into a darkroom and so the learning curve was a steep one for me, but very rewarding.  I’m quite an impatient person and the medium of film photography truly challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone.  It made me a more considerate photographer as the process was considerably slower. This helped me to truly appreciate the photographers of the past who never had digital as an option and what an undertaking it must have been for the work that they produced at that time.  The course structure was also a huge thing for me, it really guided me through how to produce a project from proposal through to exhibition and everything in-between, with group critique sessions and presentations of my work I gained the confidence in critiquing my own work as well as the work of others in a constructive way.  

 From the series  Between Darkness and Light

From the series Between Darkness and Light

Who is your main photographic inspiration? It is impossible for me to put this down to just one person, but I will try to be as concise. Gerhard Stromberg and his Coastline Catalogue work. Chris Killip and his Inflagrante and Seacoal series. Michael Collins and his Landscape and Industry publication and Hoo Peninsula work.  There is also a small independent publisher called Another Place Press run by photographer Iain Sarjeant who publish books focusing on contemporary landscape photography. Everything they publish is in line with my interests photographically. Iain’s photographic work is also quite something.  

What do you want to achieve and say with your project? I wanted to present images which provoked thought and questions. I wanted to convey a sense of place, an acknowledgement of its community, of its past via the apparatus of its landscapes. I like working in a series-based format with narrative imbedded in the work and I hope the work achieved that in some sense.  

What camera and lens did you use? Initial location scouting and test shooting was done on my trusty Canon 7d mark ii. The formal images were shot on a Shen Hao 5x4 XPO 45-A camera with a 150mm lens.

 From the series  Between Darkness and Light

From the series Between Darkness and Light

Why did you choose that equipment? Shooting digital to initially test locations, times of day and compositions enabled me to quite quickly find what worked and what didn’t, I had a lot of ground to cover. I knew I wanted to have the final images on large format as this felt right for the subject matter and detail within the landscapes. I also wanted the images to be presented in large scale and large format is best placed for this to retain as much quality as possible when taking prints large. I also really enjoy the pace of large format and the fact the lenses are fixed focal lengths, it forces me to be more patient and considerate about what I am doing and to really focus on composition. 

What are your career plans? The aim and intention is to continue to grow and progress as a photographic artist, and to push forward with developing bodies of work for exhibition and publication. I am currently in the process of researching several projects of which I am incredibly excited about. I believe I have some very captivating narratives to put out there and hopefully I can do this in a visually compelling way. I want people who engage with my work to feel compelled to enter into wider discussion and debate about its subject.