Photograd interviews Nicholas Priest

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 Birmingham City University graduate and current MA student at the University of Gloucestershire Nicholas Priest.


Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I attended BCU and graduated in 2009 and I am currently undergoing my first year of my MA at the University of Gloucestershire.

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

Tell us about your time at university. Have you got any stand out moments you can tell us about? I loved the freedom of university and was able to look at a few and mediums in the visual communication course before continuing with my love for photography. I actually transferred from the LCC in London to BCU and from marketing and advertising to visual communication as I found myself bored in lectures and bored of writing essays and all I wanted to do is to take my camera out (and that’s all I did do).

In my second year we were given a documentary photography brief and at this time I was unsure about man area or my area of photography, field and overall real identity in photography. This module and my introduction in to William Eggleston and Stephen Shore through the lectures and tutorial taught me to think about visual story telling. This project really gave me my indemnity and I want to know everything and anything to do with documentary photography and where ideas and thought process are communicate from ideas and research in to visual communication through documentary photography. 

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

What themes do you explore in your work? I really enjoy just getting lost. I have always dropped myself in a location and walked. This use to be with headphones and the latest indie band on but it is now without headphones and listening to the area and the environment and having some sort of guidance through sense of place.

I like to think about a story and narrative before I go and give myself some background knowledge of an area to then try to depict and communicate without the viewer ever being there. This has developed into adding people and trying to portray the person again without the person meeting them and getting some thought process of communication through my photographs. 

I want to try and give the viewer new knowledge through the obvious and documentation of the everyday and through the ideology of sense of place and geographically location of time and space. 

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

Tell us about your series. What's important to you about the A46? Who inspired you? How did you feel when revisiting locations from such significant times in your life? I have seen a lot of the A46 within my 31 years; Burton Farm tip, where myself and my Dad would take trips at the weekend with hedge cuttings and unwanted trinkets to dispose of and give to the Hospice shop. Alcester to Coventry is where my Dad would drive me to football games and I now drive myself up and down this part of the A46 to in and around Stratford and still playing football. My Dad drove up and down the A46 as a national sales man for different companies and I will never forget the orange lollies from Little Chefs that he would bring home and the small BP albums that we used to collect. Towards Coventry, I remember taking a bus with my Mum as a young boy to get a cyst removed as my Dad was working away and we only had one car. Warwick Hospital is just off the A46, where I have visited for twisted ankles, getting wisdom teeth removed and more recently with my Mums Mum passing away.

About 8 years ago, my parents moved from Stratford upon Avon, where I had grown up with my sister and moved down the A46 to Bidford on Avon, we helped them move and I have lived in the house a few times; after university and after a break up with a girlfriend. 

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

I remember working with adults with learning disabilities and I was driving with my ex-girlfriend in the car and was in a consistent mood and mind set of overthinking, which let me to overthinking while driving and I pulled out of a junction at Longbridge Island. Myself and my girlfriend at the time where fine, but this lead me take a step back within my life and leave that job to seek and get help for this over thinking. I got counselling and went on anti-depressants and close to a year later, I had pushed and made myself the person I am now.

I teach photography at the College in Stratford where I was first taught and grew my love for photography, I live in a house in Broadway with my girlfriend and my overthinking is near but gone. I now drive to just see my Mum in Bidford more today as we lost my Dad a few years ago in a freak accident, were we also lost our family Dog. I visit my Mum and her new dog regularly and my Mum comes to watch my play football for a local village team; Welford that my Uncle helps to run.

Sense of place and relationships are journeys, where it is good or bad memories, we change, places and landscapes change, family and friends, live changes. Visiting the A46; I took these memories to where I knew, stopping and walking and documenting what I remember to what has changed. This went up to and just passed Coventry. I then drove and walked where I didn’t know and that was from Coventry to Grimsby and Cleethorpes visting the centre and the outskirts alongside the A46 road. Documenting other memories and what could have been mine if I lived close to that area of the A46. 

As you move from Twkesbury all the way up to Grimsby and Cleethorpes more of the nation voted out in the recent Brexit vote. I wanted to try to show this, and document changes from place to place; documenting the change and giving the viewer a sense of place and idea of change from; little chefs to Starbucks and McDonalds and to portray a portrait of Britain and the real people and the roads and journeys we take.

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

Depending on the outcome of Brexit and the future of the UK, where do you see your photography taking you in the future? Brexit has become an absolute farce. Whether you voted remain or leave. The notion that the people that ‘run’ this country would rather lie than govern the country, for the people is absurd. 

With the arts world this is already no funding and galleries have to charge more than I believe that they would want to as there is no backing and cuts are being made left, right and centre within the arts. 

This filters down to artists and graduates trying to get their work into galleries, exhibitions and enter them in to paying competitions, but there are platforms like Photograd that can use their platform and social media to help photographers be seen and keep them enthusiastic and motivated to continue with work and create new work. 

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

My time with photography has been up to and down and projects have come and gone and some have been finished. With the Brexit outcome I can see myself carrying on with expressing narrative through my documentary photography and this may with the outcome of Brexit and documenting people and places; like my new project the A46 and what, who, and or might be affected by Brexit.

How do you feel your series communicates the current state of the UK? What would you like your viewer to learn? I think my series gives an idea of sense of place, change of landscape and the idea of psychogeography of urban and rural environments. I want to show the viewer the nostalgia of a road and relation to myself.  To show a journey and the change of the how far the a service station has come, to observe buildings and infrastructure, cafes, signs and overall semiotics, and be hopeful that the viewer can resonate with the series and the journey and see different landscapes from west to east of the A46 through; edgelands and into environments where different people voted remain and out.

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

Have you got any exciting future plans? I am about half way through the A46 and starting to get a good vocabulary and looking more in to the contextual side as the project grows. I have been looking in to the road trip through David Company’s The Open Road alongside looking into work after Robert Franks Americans. The main homage has been to Paul Grahams  A1; The Great North Road and the nostalgia of Grahams journey on an ‘A’ road. These photographers, their visual communication, and my thinking through my MA so far has lead down a path of psychogeography; before and psychogeography today and the idea of walking. This has come from readings in to Merlin Coverley, Patrick Keillers Robison series, Doreen Massey’s For Space and Paul Farley and Micheal Roberts Edgelands which are helping my understanding the idea of walking, place, representation, awareness and a vocabulary to go and continue to shoot for my essay into the ‘A46’. 

I have also begun to plan a project around villages in Britain and abroad with the idea of Brexit being a very narrative throughout. 

Chris Mear. Five Years: A Reciprocal Tribute

Legacy: A Reciprocal Tribute is an artwork conceived by Patricia Swannell in response to The Woodland Trusts flagship Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee. Patricia’s artwork takes the form of a plinth, inviting local families to make an annual family photograph against the backdrop of the developing trees. Charting both the changes in their family and the changes in the landscape they collectively call home. Five years ago Staffordshire University graduate Chris Mear was commissioned to photograph this selected family in the same spot in Leicestershire each year. 2018 marks Chris's 5th year as the commissioned photographer.


I could agrue that 2014 was my most succesful year to date. I became an artist in residence, I published my first book and I landed a modest succession of commissions which just about saw me through the remainder of the year. It was, finally, the year that I could actually defend the claim that I was a “photographer” - a claim which I have to admit I’ve, more often than not, not had the confidence to defend. But when it all starts winding down and I’m sat in a tree looking back at my brief holiday on earth, I will most probably remember the year 2014 for one thing above all others - a commission that goes by the name of Legacy: A Reciprocal Tribute. A commission that, all being well, will see me well into what I’m told they used to call “retirement age”.

The London based, Canadian born artist, Patricia Swannell was asked to come up with a location based artwork for the Woodland Trust’s flagship commemoration of the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 - that’s 60 years on the old thrown. Interestingly, what Patricia devised was a “photo point” in a carefully selected location within the wood - selected to compose people, trees and landscape. 

The idea was, to me at least, both beautiful, poigniant and simple. To chart the growth of yourself alongside the development of your family the woodland and the wider landscape.

Patricia also visited the woodland site in the early days of it’s post-industrial transition and collected 60 native plants and wildflowers from which she made 60 etchings to make up a permanent exhibition - which moves to a new home this autumn. Each year one of these etchings will be replaced by my portrait of the Martinson family, a local family who live just a pleasent evenings stroll away from the wood.

2014.jpg
2016.jpg
2015.jpg
2017.jpg

This Sunday evening will be the fifth exposure, the fifth year. And so far each time I have made that walk to the photo point I have been unable to prevent my mind from thinking to the future; what will this all be like in 60 years time? This year however, I intend to try extra hard to not venture though my mind in some ludicrous attempt to construct an imaginary future. My rabbit of almost seven years died this week and I hope to pay respect to my friend, my best friend, and teacher by beginning to practice his most important teaching; Life Is Now.

So I will experience the woodland for what it is, a wild place where the two Martinson boys are growing faster than the trees. A place of peace and natural unity which leaves you feeling a sense of hope and optimism in a world dominated by a species that all to often seems intent on losing its remarkable mind.

How lucky I am, to have been in such a right place, at such a right time to land a photography gig like this.

Sophie Barbasch - Fault Line

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 second runner-up!

Sophie Barbasch is based in New York and studied for a MFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Art and Art History at Brown University. We've interviewed Sophie here about the series Fault Line.


Fault Line is a project I am doing in the small coastal town of Brooklin, Maine. The protagonist is my younger cousin Adam, who lives there. I also photograph my brother, father, and other cousins. I chose the title because a fault line alludes to where the earth splits in an earthquake (a metaphor for a divided family with a complicated history) and also alludes to fault, or blame (I wonder, how does a family support each other, even when things aren't perfect?) My goal is to show the weight we all carry and how we are both connected and isolated from each other.

Image from the series  Fault Line

Image from the series Fault Line

Can you introduce yourself? What and where did you study? What's your motto? I’m a New York based photographer. I grew up here, and I also lived in Providence where I got my BA at Brown and my MFA at RISD. I don’t know if I have a motto per se, but I think it’s important to laugh as much as possible. In terms of work, I think a lot about how you just have to keep going, always, no matter what!  

Give us an overview of your work. What themes do you like to explore? Regardless of the project I have a preoccupation with the dissolution of structure. In my work, there is usually tension between a desired/expected outcome and an actual/different outcome. I like images because they elude the structure and clarity of language—but even in my text-based projects, I emphasise words that have multiple connotations. I make collections of writing with pieces that undo, or undermine, the other component parts (i.e. there is a building up of meaning, or an argument being made, that is then undone). This undermining of expectation, or structure, is not always negative/nihilistic. It’s just my way of addressing life’s ambiguity.

Image from the series  Fault Line

Image from the series Fault Line

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? I really like both Loupe and Photograd so when I saw the call for work I was immediately interested. In terms of tips, I don’t think I’m the right person to ask! I submit to a lot of things, and rejection is almost a daily occurrence. I guess the key is just persistence, as with most things.

How did this series come to the surface? What initially drew you to the coastal town of Brooklin? I have family there so it has always been important to me. I started the project for a few different reasons. I was finishing up grad school with a lot of questions and issues that I felt like I needed to address in my work, and this project seemed to be a good fit. I was getting to know my cousin better as both a person and a photo collaborator and wanted to work more with him. And I had been traveling and moving around a lot in the years prior, which left me wanting to return to a home base of sorts.

Image from the series  Fault Line

Image from the series Fault Line

Is it important you use your family as characters in your work? What were their thoughts on your ideas? For a while I was trying to address elements of my childhood in my work but the connection wasn’t direct enough. I decided to use my family members and to think of them as characters that inhabit this place and develop over time. It started with a few images that seemed to get at what I was feeling, and then I realised that my cousin Adam was a good protagonist for the project because he seemed to share my experience and outlook. I speak the most to him and my other cousins about the project. Although they are not photographers, they are all artistic (musicians, writers, performers) so it is intuitive to them. I usually have the initial idea, but they help me develop it by improvising in the moment and suggesting other things. They motivate me and collaborate with me.

Image from the series  Fault Line

Image from the series Fault Line

Where did you final visual influence for Fault LineJo Ann Callis, Andrea Modica, Viviane Sassen, Ingmar Bergman, Collier Schorr, Jo Ann Walters.

As family and relationships continue to evolve, do you think you can ever call this series complete? I don’t think it will ever be complete. I think the longer you work on a project, the harder it gets—the more complex things get. This mirrors reality and relationships. You have to examine more of yourself and show more of others. I think of this series in chapters. Even when one chapter ends, there is another beginning.

Image from the series  Fault Line

Image from the series Fault Line

What are your future plans? I’m currently working on a project about the construction of a railroad in Brazil. As for the future future—I’m not sure! Projects tend to lead into each other, but sometimes it’s hard to know what it is until it’s almost finished.