Photograd interviews Matt MacPake

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 Hertfordshire graduate Matt MacPake.


This body of work has been in the making for quite some time. Can you tell us why? Is this your usual way of working? Well it does feel like Brexit has been going on forever, and I feel this project for me at least, began further back than the 2016 referendum.

I started taking photographs at the end of a previous project, To & From the North Circular. Unsurprisingly walking the A406 had left me jaded and I needed a change. So, just for fun I altered my process. I started to work in the opposite way: posed, digital colour portraits became black and white, 120mm film and I started to photograph people from a distance as they walked through my viewfinder. Pretty simple things - but it’s always better to start that way and see how the work progresses. Posed portraits came later but the observational images are still part of this project. That was in 2014-15 and in the beginning I was photographing around Euston and St Pancras, purely because they are busy commuter areas but looking back now perhaps I was drawn to the transport link to Europe.. who knows. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

In early 2016, the project started to grow in my mind and by now I had been wandering into various different areas and parts of London. For a while I was just trying little experiments, playing around and seeing where it would take me. Lots of these tests didn’t amount to anything but it was nice to not have the pressure of any deadline and I spent long periods just making pictures. I enjoy working on long form documentary projects but I also enjoy short assignments and often work on a number of separate projects at once. There are more short projects to come. For now, this project remains unfinished although I do feel it’s coming towards an end. Either way, I’m sure many of us will be photographing Brexit and its impact upon Britain & the EU for generations to come. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

How do you think London and your series has changed since the vote on Brexit? What sort of differences are you seeing when out making images? I think the whole country has been seeing the effects of Tory lead austerity for years now - homelessness and child poverty numbers are increasing and it’s worrying to think what the future will look like. 

When I first moved to London in 2010 it was an exciting time, I felt like anything was possible and London was a celebration of multicultural society. Most of us got happily swept up in the spirit of the 2012 Olympics, and although I’ve never considered myself patriotic, there was a huge sense of pride and ownership in the country at this time.

Like a lot of people many of my family and relatives outside of London voted to leave the EU, where as I voted Remain. It was and still is a strange time, with the country divided like I’ve never known before. I’ll never forget the awful feeling the morning of the result – a sick feeling in your gut. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

This project captures a mood and atmosphere that occurred through this period. I personally feel we’re moving back in time, not forwards. There’s a great sense of uncertainty about our impending future. It wasn’t about who voted which way, that seemed to simplify this idea of what Brexit it is, of course it’s a lot more complex than a yes/no debate. Although we know Brexit is about the UK leaving the EU, no one has any idea of the impact it will have on future generations, and I’m fearful of that. Maybe for me, this feeling is part of becoming a dad for the first time – there’s a tendency to worry more about things you once took for granted. 

You've produced work in colour before but we're curious to know why you've chosen black and white for this work? What equipment have you been using? The world in black and white is a distinctive place - it’s not the world we live in and I like that. It’s a completely new environment where we can record a place we inhabit, but see it with new eyes - this adds a layer of tone that I find intriguing as the images can be more emotive. 

I’ll continue to work in colour but because of this project I believe I’ll always take black and white images too. I’ve made a connection with black & white photography I didn’t have previously. The project may carry on for a while yet, we will have to wait and see. I’m making a dummy of what I have so far but I’d also like to make new work about Brexit that deals with people & their stories in a more intimate and collaborative way. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

At the beginning, I started testing with a Hasselblad 503CX, then used a Mamiya RB. But most of the final images from the project are made with either a Makina Plaubel 67 or a Mamiya 7. The Mamiya 7, was my dream camera, this was a birthday present from my wife, who I must say a huge thanks you too not only for this but also her advice & support with my photography! 

I had to use what I could get my hands on. I borrowed from friends and on occasion the loan store from the university where I teach. I’m not really a big kit, tech, type of person I’m more about the images and how I make them, but obliviously I love cameras! The best option for anyone is to use what you have. Limitations in what you have available can be a blessing not a curse.  

What would you like for your viewer to take from your images? I don’t want to tell the viewer what to take away from my project, I’m more interested in what different people see within it themselves. Some may think that sounds like a cop-out, but I hope there’s enough in the images to lead people certain ways and leave the audience to bring something to work. I hope that the work demonstrates a tone and atmosphere that’s of the time, but what this is will depend on who you are. There’s a fantastic quote by Todd Hido

“it’s not my job to create meaning, but only to charge the air so that meaning can occur”

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

Brexit has certainly ‘charged the air’ for the last 3-4 years, so I hope that my project has captured some of this in its own way. I used this quote for inspiration throughout the start of the work and it’s something I go back to when looking for new visual approaches. 

I’ve always struggled with words it’s maybe why I was drawn to photography to begin with, although you soon realise that the two go hand in hand. Now I see that photography helps develop my language and understanding

This project has the working title Whisper City Bones, which comes from a quote by Iain Sinclair, which begins “London is a city that sleeps too much.” This appealed to me as it challenges the positive idea of cities being alive and thriving. We all know that London is too successful for its own good and that has a negative impact across the rest of the country. I feel the UK has been asleep for years - we’ve let austerity happen and now Brexit. There’s nothing nice you can add on the end of this is there…

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

There is hope and it’s in the next generation, look at the school kids marching for climate change, so inspiring, they are all heroes! That’s hope & that’s something to believe in!

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.

Photograd interviews Michaela Harcegová

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 South Wales graduate Michaela Harcegová.


Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? BA (Hons) Photography, University of South Wales, Cardiff, June 2018.

Tell us about your time at university. Have you got any stand out moments you can tell us about? It was certainly challenging at the beginning, but I really enjoyed my time in Cardiff and at university. To pick one I would have to say my graduation and working towards our graduate show. It was stressful, for sure, but be part of organising and building the show felt amazing. Same with the getting my diploma. I felt huge sense of accomplishment. I am really grateful for everyone who supported me during my studies and help me through the tough times. I met some amazing people which I will be always thankful for.

IMG_8965.jpg

What themes do you explore in your work? My most recent work is currently capturing London at night. It’s looking at the city at its most vulnerable, changed after night fall to this surreal landscape, something darker, more mysterious. Deserted street, lit windows suggesting presence of people, in safety of their own homes. The idea and the project are still in progress and developing constantly, but through this work trying to interpret the complexity of this city that feel like second home to me but at the same time I don’t quite belong there. The images reflect firstly my feeling of strangeness, loneliness and anxiety surrounding my move to London and secondly the uncertainty what is going to happen and make sense of the changes that are happening. That sense of divide, anticipation and frustration about this situation that can be felt in the country.

Michaela 1.jpg

My other project attempts to capture and explore something that is essentially an experience in the ‘place’ that is at the same time ‘no-place’: bus stop. This experience is unique but at the same time the same. Something ephemeral. Waiting for a bus. The images were captured at night, illumined only by bus stop light, people become ghostly figures in the strange world. They could easily be taken out of dreams with everyone being able to associate their own experience with theirs. It is also something that lingers in our mind no longer than a dream with us sleep walking, operating on auto-pilot and avoiding boredom anyway we can. Strangers barely acknowledging each other. Place of lost time and waiting.

Tell us about your selection of images here. Why have you chosen to photograph the city at night? There is something surreal about the change between day and night. It’s like stepping in to different reality. The more dreamlike and darker version of it. I am really captivated by this change the poeticism of it. As I mentioned before, I am trying to capture the vulnerability, loneliness, and the sense of not quite belonging and night helps me translate this in to the imagery.

Michaela 2.jpg

How have you tried to show your feelings towards Brexit through your imagery? I haven’t intentionally, but it definitely influenced my work and it’s something I have been thinking about. It found its way in to my work. It reflects the mood that it evokes in the country. It is still unclear what will happen, as the decision is still being delayed and no deal has been made yet. When answering your question about themes in my work, I mentioned sense of divide, anticipation and frustration that I sense in the country surrounding Brexit. I feel like my imagery express this darker feelings and mood being shot at night, with streets void of people with perhaps single person which can’t be seen clearly. This means to represent the leaving of immigrants and uncertainty of their fate in UK.

Michaela 3.jpg

Depending on the outcome of Brexit and the future of the UK, where do you picture your photography taking you in the future? Do you think you will continue to make work around this subject? As the outcome is still unclear, it is difficult for me to say where the photography will take me in the future. In the months I lived here I fell in love with London, but I feel the things are slowly changing to the worse. I don’t believe UK leaving EU will solve the issues there are. Brexit is something that will influence the whole country if UK leaves and as a consequently might damage the relationships with European Union. I am interested where this will all lead, and I want to document this change through my photography whatever the outcome. I will continue working and developing this project further and see where it leads.

You mention that you are an immigrant from Europe. How do you see the near future of the UK affecting the way you live and make work? Yes, I am originally from Slovakia and my whole family lives there. To answer your question, it is very hard to say. I am still planning on staying in London for foreseeable future, but that might change depending what the outcome is going to be. I will continue to shoot and create work here in London or around UK, but I might take a different approach, concentrating more on the consequences and commenting more on the actual Brexit as my work so far is more indirect.

Michaela.jpg

What would you like for viewers to learn from your work? Maybe it’s me, coming here as a foreigner, but I felt scared, lonely and overwhelmed by London for quite a while after I moved there, and I still do struggle sometimes. Everything is so fast paced and just so very different to what I was used to moving here from Cardiff, and the anxiety surrounding Brexit is greater as the date draws closer. I want the viewers to see that in my work and communicate these feelings. My work can be interpreted in many ways but I want the viewer take away from it, in this context, is better understanding of the feelings about the situation from someone who is foreigner observing it from inside.

Have you got any exciting future plans? Yes, I have some exciting plans, but I don’t want to say too much at this point as they are still in the stages of planning. All I can say it might include some video work.

Photograd interviews Chris Mear

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 Staffordshire University graduate Chris Mear.


Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere is essentially a road trip project, but unlike many such projects the road I have chosen to follow is neither particularly long nor significant.

Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? Staffordshire University, and 2011.

Image from the series  Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Image from the series Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Tell us about your time at university. Have you got any stand out moments you can tell us about? In all honesty it was largely a wasted opportunity by me. But through university I truly discovered photography, beyond the boringly obvious. Two stand out moments were discovering the book Hide That Can by Deirdre O’Callahan and visiting the Paul Graham retrospective at the White Chapel (2011). And both were monumentally important for me.

What themes do you explore in your work? Sense of place and the human condition.

Image from the series  Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Image from the series Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Tell us about your series of images. What's important to you about some of the locations? The road’s been a constant for me during my lifetime as have the places along it.

Are the people in these images also important to you? Yes. Because they’re all strangers who are willing to make a connection with another stranger and make us not strangers anymore.

Image from the series  Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Image from the series Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

How have you tried to show your feelings towards Brexit through your imagery? I’m just trying to understand how this small part of the world and the people who inhabit it, including me, really feel at this moment in time.

Depending on the outcome of Brexit and the future of the UK, where do you see your photography taking you in the future? I don’t know. Which is three words people should be willing to say more, if you ask me.

Image from the series  Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Image from the series Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

How do you see this work evolving? I don’t know. I’ll just keep walking. I just want to keep moving around my little corner of the world with good intentions and pure curiosity. I don’t want to think about how it might evolve or how it might end up, because that’ll effect the process, which I want to be as intuitive and authentic as possible. Maybe during the course of making these pictures I’ll learn to drive. Maybe that’ll change it? I don’t know.

What would you like for viewers to learn from your work? That’s not for me to say.

Image from the series  Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Image from the series Twenty-one Miles From Nowhere

Tell us about some of your biggest achievements. I wake up, I get out of bed, I go to work, I smile, I laugh and sometimes I feel confident and motivated enough to go out and connect and make pictures. But it depends on your individual definition of achievement – my CV’s on my website.

Have you got any exciting future plans? I’m planning to be better at being present, in the present.

Alex Hewitt interviews Rob Townsend

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we approached industry experts to select from submissions received a photography graduate they would like to interview for Photograd. Here we have Findr founder Alex Hewitt interviewing Open College of the Arts student Rob Townsend.


You say that photography, like politics simplifies. Do you believe your work fully interprets the story of a nation in turmoil or is your imagery designed to provoke the debate? Absolutely the latter. The work doesn’t try to interpret the story of a nation so much as take a sideways look at how the nation, or certainly parts of it, are being interpreted in a highly oversimplified way by the media (both mainstream and social, i.e. us). The question marks at the end of the project title and the town captions are intended to encourage a challenge to my deliberately stereotyped imagery.

Image from the series  Two Kinds of People?

Image from the series Two Kinds of People?

Much like the political situation a major fascination of your images is in the nuance of interpretation. The juxtaposition of competing narratives is binary and oppositional but the everyday nature of your subject matter normalises these parallels. Is this a deliberate choice? I don’t see the narratives as competing, more co-existing. Both parts of each pie chart are ‘true’ (both as in an unmodified capture of reality, and in terms of being true to some people’s everyday lived experience) but that doesn’t make the juxtaposition accurate in terms of meaningful representation.

The binary/oppositional thing is an exaggerated construct; the reality is that everyone in these towns co-exists and sits somewhere on a scale from committed Remainer to hardcore Leaver. I suppose I’m trying to satirise the massive generalisations that imply you can describe a whole town in one or two adjectives or pictures.

Image from the series  Two Kinds of People?

Image from the series Two Kinds of People?

You touch on the danger of simplification. Are your images simplified to highlight how this simplification was a powerful tool that the pro-Brexit lobby leaned on to engineer the result of the referendum? Yes, but not just the pro-Brexit lobby. Both campaigns oversimplified an incredibly complex situation. I certainly have my own opinion on the referendum result itself, but this work was more about taking a step back and looking at how we so quickly ended up in these oppositional ‘tribes’...

To a certain extent simplification is just human nature, a useful cognitive shortcut to dealing with complexity. But it kind of got 'weaponised' in the run-up to the referendum and has, I think, continued to disrupt the whole debate to this day.

People, and their choices, are what led the UK to this precipice but the subject of your work is almost entirely inanimate scenes. Do you think that presenting work devoid of humanity removes the absurdity of human behaviour from your debate or are the scenes carefully selected to display this absurdity from a subjective point of view? I generally tend not to use individuals as representatives or exemplars, casting them in a role that might not fit them just because they look like they suit my (highly constructed) narrative. That's not to say I dislike such an approach taken by others, it's just a personal preference to leave people out of the picture unless they have explicitly consented.

Image from the series  Two Kinds of People?

Image from the series Two Kinds of People?

More specifically with this work, in a sense I was imitating the metonymic way that places get anthropomorphised, as in "Middlesbrough voted Leave" etc – the town linguistically standing in for its inhabitants in another simplified shortcut. Like a whole town has a split personality that can be summarised in two photos. Excluding people seemed to help my intent here.

The words you use in your narrative are harsh (is Burnley 33.4% striver / 66.6% skiver?) do you think the political situation has opened new wounds in class division or do you think they've never really gone away? Media discourse tends to round the referendum votes up to 100%, describing a town or a region as "Leave area" or a "Remain area" – with the pie charts I was aiming to highlight this absurdity by taking it down just one level, as in 'OK, so are you saying that this town is two-thirds left-behind underclass and one-third latte-sipping metropolitan liberals?'. The pairs of words are deliberately polarised as I think that emphasises how we've lost sight of the nuances of human behaviour and values. I'd like to think that most people's response to all of those polarised pairs of statistics is 'no, don't be daft...'.

Image from the series  Two Kinds of People?

Image from the series Two Kinds of People?

But to answer your question... the political situation of the last few years has, I think, surfaced a lot of tensions that have been simmering for decades. Not just around class but age, education, regional inequality, identity and more. The referendum didn't create these divisions but I believe it revealed and amplified them. Here I've just tried to photograph those amplified divisions in a deliberately exaggerated manner.

Image from the series  Two Kinds of People?

Image from the series Two Kinds of People?

What would you like to happen next? There's at least two ways of answering that...

Regarding Brexit and society in general, much as I'm a committed Remainiac I feel that the only sane way forward for the UK as a whole is some kind of soft Brexit, a compromise that reflects the 52:48 split. No-one will be wholly happy with that but it's better than half the population potentially nursing various levels of grievance for years to come.

Regarding the work, I'll be happy if after looking at these images a viewer spent just a short while thinking about how oversimplification and mass stereotyping negatively affects our public discourse; how mass generalisation of populations isn't just unhelpful, it's actually a bit silly too.

Fleur and Arbor interview Jennifer Atcheson

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we approached industry experts to select from submissions received a photography graduate they would like to interview for Photograd. Here we have Fleur and Arbor co-founders Jasmine and Olivia interviewing University of Ulster graduate Jennifer Atcheson.


How did this project come about?

My original project West came about in 2009 as part of my BA Photography studies. After returning from a project in Cyprus about the city of Famagusta, which lies along the Turkish and Greek Cypriot border, I began to reflect on why I was fascinated with this area. 

Having grown up less than a mile from the Northern Ireland / Republic of Ireland border, the answer was clear and I felt compelled that this would be my next project. I photographed the area where I grew up, both the border and people where Tyrone and Donegal meet. Almost a decade later and this project has become more important than ever. 

Currently I am working on a project under the title of Bordertownland where I am exploring all counties along the border, my main subject of interest is the people and portraits within the landscape.

Image from the series  Bordertownland

Image from the series Bordertownland

What is it like to photograph a place that is so familiar? Was there anything that surprised you? It’s alien and familiar at the same time. For many the border areas have a lot of attached anxieties, and although I remember little more than the border checks and the impassable minor roads cratered or obstructed with cement blockades, it still gives me an uneasy feeling even in the most beautiful landscapes. Locals are inquisitive about why you are idling in theses areas, sometimes met with support and sometimes with suspicion, either way it doesn’t go unnoticed. 

What has surprised me most is how it all feels very much like a temporary effort now that I look at these places again. The bridges look utilitarian and inexpensive, the old checkpoint and customs plots left in a state of somewhat maintained disuse, even some old cement blockades remain having been moved only feet from where they once stood. 

Image from the series  West

Image from the series West

How has your career as a Camera Assistant influenced your photography style? Working in the Film and TV influences my work mainly in the way that I have little time to spare to pursue photography. A minimal working week for me is 50 hours and I have just recently worked an unusually long 16-hour day. But having said that I love my job and my career and lifestyle are difficult to differentiate. All my working hours I am constantly thinking about cameras, lenses, filters and light. In my spare time I rarely go a day without thinking about Photography. I have worked with some of the most talented and experienced Cinematographers from around the world who I would never have otherwise met.

Photography is almost like a language and for me the more technical understanding you have, the more fluently you can use it to communicate. My photography has changed technically and I know more intuitively how to achieve a shot, but my style has changed very little. My photography is not in any way cinematic and is a world away from how my short films look. For me Photography and Cinematography are closely related but more akin to cousins than siblings. 

Image from the series  West

Image from the series West

Why did you choose to shoot both the landscape and portraiture? For me landscape and portraiture separately are limited in expressing this subject and my main interests are for the representation of the people within the border areas. Photography is always poses the question of how to represent a subject within a single frame and this is where the landscapes come into play. Most of these people would be directly affected by the reinstatement of any kind of a border. Their lives and work are strongly connected to and dependent on the land. 

You're developing a short film, can you tell us about your process? I haven’t started shooting the short film such as yet, but this piece I would say it is more of a moving image Photography piece rather than a regular Film. It will expand on the photographs with the sound recordings being the most important part. I intend on interviewing the people I have photographed about the border and their feelings towards Brexit, yet the outcome will not be a straight documentary type film.

Image from the series  West

Image from the series West

What does Brexit mean to you? Before I comment I feel I need to state that I have friends and family on both sides of “the divide” both religious and political.

Brexit means a border. Hard or soft, either way, and if it is happens between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland it would more than likely result in at least the closure of one family members small business, and the downsizing of a currently booming Film and TV industry. The reality for myself and other family and friends would be disastrous for our livelihoods and many would have to move away for work even if they wished to stay here.

Brexit has serious consequences for Northern Ireland and could be the catalyst for the destruction of the current fragile state of “peace”. Already in the past months we have witnessed a car bomb in an open public place and in a separate incident, the fatality of a Journalist in a shooting during a riot. Northern Ireland is going to be the most directly affected part of the UK, but seems to have been nothing but a complication and an afterthought to the representing politicians.

Pagy Wicks interviews Ben Milne

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we approached industry experts to select from submissions received a photography graduate they would like to interview for Photograd. Here we have Semi Magazine founder Pagy Wicks interviewing University of Gloucestershire graduate Ben Milne.


Image from the series  Over the Water

Image from the series Over the Water

Pagy Wicks: Really loved Over the Water. How did you come about deciding to document the differences in economic wealth in Liverpool and Birkenhead? What fueled you to create the photobook?

Ben Milne: Thank you. Well technically I was fuelled by my university deadline, haha, but really I wanted to make a piece of work that had some familiarity and discoverability to it. I was born in Birkenhead then lived within ten miles of it growing up so it just felt right to learn more about an area that is close to home rather than try and tell a story about wealth in a community that hasn’t really got a place in my soul.

PW: Ah right, so this was for university initially? I really like that last line, deciding to document a place that has a relationship with you the photographer. What is your relationship with Liverpool? Did your inside perspective reveal any new insights into the wealth divide, or even Birkenhead in general, you maybe hadn't noticed before?

Image from the series  Over the Water

Image from the series Over the Water

BM: Yeah I made the work for my final major project. My relationship with Liverpool is quite simple, it’s just a place that is fun to visit but in terms of the project it’s got a very visible contrast within such a short space, that being the river Mersey. That contrast is down to a few things, job opportunities, scale, the city status itself but EU funding plays a huge role. Liverpool’s waterfront (as viewed from Birkenhead) was hugely funded by the European Union, while Birkenhead gets some funding it just doesn’t carry the same weight. 

Having a little inside perspective was revealing in the sense that it seemed to allow people to talk more openly with me, not so much about their own current opinion on Birkenhead but more of the pathos they have towards the past. The lady pictured behind the bar is 72 years old and she recounted with a sense of joy about “the good old days” when the streets were full and the Mersey ferry was not just a tourist vessel but a business commute, for many. Things move on, that’s a given, but it feels as if a replacement never came for Birkenhead. It’s almost been forgotten.

Image from the series  Over the Water

Image from the series Over the Water

PW: The image of the old woman behind the bar is almost poetic, it's one of the very memorable images from the book for me. What sort of questions do you hope arise from a reader about the distribution of wealth illustrated by the juxtaposition of Birkenhead and Liverpool? Particularly in relation to the UK leaving the EU?

BM: Thanks very much, I like that one too. She was cool. 

I hope it raises questions about the importance of communities that experience loss and the need for them to be rebuilt in some sort of beneficial way. The model is literally there, 1000 metres away in Liverpool. Not to say that Liverpool doesn’t have its own issues with community neglect but in terms of two waterfronts the importance of European funding is there in the Albert Dock, not only to see but to enjoy. The fact that Birkenhead voted to Leave is no surprise as it’s not really benefited from the crop. It does however highlight a possible future for the UK without the EU. Investment will have to come from alternate means and the question is will those means come? And will they ever see an interest in Birkenhead the same way the EU saw an interest in Liverpool?

Image from the series  Over the Water

Image from the series Over the Water

PW: Thanks so much Ben, really excited to see the work develop in the future. The UK feels very divided at the moment, hopefully our conversation, between two people from either side of the coin, will spark something.

BM: Thanks very much, that was fun. It’s great what you’re doing. I look forward to reading the other interviews, especially the leave side ones, they should be interesting... 

Alex Ingram interviews Luke Archer

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we approached industry experts to select from submissions received a photography graduate they would like to interview for Photograd. Here we have Alex Ingram interviewing Arts University Bournemouth graduate Luke Archer.


Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into photography? I’m originally from North West London, end of the Jubilee Line, Zone 5, deep suburbs! After a few years in Bristol I’ve crossed the river and now call South London home. Photography has always been a part of my life in some form or another, my granddad worked for Kodak all his life and predictably gave me my first film and digital cameras, both Kodak obviously! My other grandad died before I was born but he was a working photographer -  I like to think it’s in the blood!

Image from the series  The Rock

Image from the series The Rock

I didn’t become that engaged with photography until studying A level art, at that stage I was using photography as a starting point, painting over photos, collaging, all sorts. At that time, I went to see a big Diane Arbus retrospective at the V&A, it was a pivotal moment because I realised that photography can be so powerful on its own you don’t need to mess around with it. From that point on its been a love hate relationship where I have studied photography, given up on it and then gone back to it. I finished an MA last year and I’m currently trying to pursue assisting while running Loupe magazine.

What is your relationship with Gibraltar? I have family who have lived there for about 10 years so it’s a country I have always been aware of but in reality I had not spent that much time exploring it. I would visit my family in summer holidays and despite flying in and out of Gibraltar most of the time was spent across the border in Spain. The project has enabled me to establish a much better understanding of Gibraltar.

Image from the series  The Rock

Image from the series The Rock

Talk us through your new project. What is it about Gibraltar that interested you and made you want to produce your work there? I had always thought Gibraltar would make a good subject for a project. I think any location that a wider audience knows little about is going to peak a photographer’s interest. I wasn’t aware of any other photographer’s projects based on Gibraltar so it gave me the chance to get stuck in and not be swayed by any existing imagery.  I knew with Brexit looming that Gibraltar would be a place of interest but also that the media coverage might be one dimensional. I felt it would be a good time to shoot a project that went beyond some of the more alarmist headlines.

Gibraltar has a very high number of Spanish workers who migrate into the country every day for work. How do you think Gibraltar will be effected when the UK eventually leaves the EU? Yes as far as I know it’s around 10,000 Spanish workers who cross the border, not to mention Gibraltarians living in Spain and other nationalities who have decided to live on the Spanish side, normally due to cost. It’s very hard to tell because of the general uncertainty that surrounds all of Brexit. There are some scary worst case scenarios. In regards to the workers it could impact on their jobs but this seems unlikely, it’s in everyone’s interest to keep the border open and flowing as normal, anything that hampers this will likely see protests on both sides. One worry for people living in Gibraltar is lack of food. After Brexit  food that would normally cross the border is will now be going out of the EU and it will be subject to a different level of inspection. Apparently, the Spanish border town does not have the facilities to do this and the food would have to go to another nearby port town and perhaps be shipped across to Gib. The very worst case scenario is Gibraltar could run out of food. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen and I think most people expect a rocky first month or so but that some form of normality will return. 

Image from the series  The Rock

Image from the series The Rock

You described Gibraltar as being "more British than the Brits". Can you elaborate on this? What similarities or differences do you see between life in Gibraltar and life in the UK? It’s not a phrase that I have come up with, it’s something that is often said about Gibraltar and I’m not sure I agree with it now. I think because it’s a major tourist destination, sometimes the Britishness is played up for that crowd, thousands of people get off a cruise ship and want to see the red telephone boxes, eat some fish and chips etc.  Whereas day to day life is more Gibraltarian and by that, I mean infused with its own unique culture and identity, which has more of a Spanish influence than most people realise. For example, a lot of casual conversations on the street will be in the local dialect of Yanito which is predominantly Spanish with phrases and words from other languages thrown in. 

There are of course similarities, in the digital age with TV and internet its easier for UK music and fashion to reach Gibraltar, whereas perhaps in the past there might have been a time delay or a disparity. 

Just like the UK It’s also a country of dog lovers and despite the lack of space there are lot of dogs! 

Did you go to Gibraltar with a preconceived idea of what life will be like there? Did that perception change? It’s hard for me to look back because I’ve spent so much time there over the last couple of years. I suppose at first I was guilty of thinking it would be very British and thus easy to get my head around. I underestimated the Spanish influence: it’s worth noting that often Gibraltarian families have one side Spanish and one side British so of course that is going to come together to make something new. That cultural fusion can make understanding the country and its culture very tricky.

Image from the series  The Rock

Image from the series The Rock

Now I see Gibraltar as a distinct country, it’s just like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they are all British but each with their own identity and culture.

Were there any stand out moments during your visit? I got back from a visit earlier this year, and during the trip I spent a day with the police force and went out in really rough weather on one of their fast patrol boats. It was crazy the boat was literally leaping out of the water and then slamming back down. I can’t imagine having to chase and stop another boat using one those, I could barely stay in my seat! I don’t think the images will be any good but it was an experience!

What is your favourite image from the series? That’s a tricky one – I’m not always that confident in my individual images I feel the strength comes from how the images come together as a series.  however, I really like the image of the Iman at the Moroccan mosque.

I always find mosques very calm places and it was a low stress sitting, I had plenty of time and he was a great sitter. I’m pleased that I was able show him in context. Portraits are always the hardest but most rewarding aspect for me!

Image from the series  The Rock

Image from the series The Rock

Do you plan on returning to Gibraltar after the UK leaves to continue working on the project? Yes definitely, I have portrait sittings I still need to complete and a few locations I’m in the process of securing access to. I’m very lucky that I can stay with family so going out is not too much of a challenge financially. A lot does depend on Brexit, now it’s great excuse to get the project out there and bring attention to Gibraltar. If Brexit is disastrous then I might be out there photographing the impact. However, I hope that whatever happens  is minor, as a country its survived sieges so I’m sure it will cope with whatever Brexit throws at it!  In the long run, I hope the project will be framed more around Gibraltar’s unique landscape and identity and Brexit will be more of a footnote.

What's next for you? Are you currently working on any other projects? I have a long list of projects I would love to shoot but it’s going to take several lifetimes to get through them all! I have previously been bad at finishing projects so I would be nice to see this one in print before moving on. I do have one project idea that is more focused around technology I just need to research it to make sure no one else has shot it already! 

#PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine’s Genea Bailey interviews Jordan Turnbull

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we approached industry experts to select from submissions received a photography graduate they would like to interview for Photograd. Here we have #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine’s Genea Bailey interviewing University of Gloucestershire graduate Jordan Turnbull.


Curating #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine has introduced me to many fascinating bodies of work, those that resonate most are projects with a compelling narrative, which is essential when it comes to issues of importance such as Brexit. Jordan Turnball’s series A Rock and a Hard Place explores beneath the surface of Gibraltar, revealing the troubling core of a British territory in political limbo and shedding a light on an overlooked community. 

Image from the series  A Rock and a Hard Place

Image from the series A Rock and a Hard Place

What was it about Gibraltar specifically that moved you to make this body of work opposed to other territories within British jurisdiction? I was researching possible ideas for my Final Major project knowing that I wanted to focus on something Brexit related because this was the biggest change to happen to the country in decades and it would affect how Britain interacted both internally and with the rest of the of the world.

I was reading a ‘Financial Times’ piece detailing the issues surrounding the “Irish Backstop” and after finishing the piece there was a related article on Gibraltar and how Brexit would affect the tiny overseas territory. I did look into other territories such as Helena and Ascension but Gibraltar’s ease of access and the way the inhabitants had showed their loyalty to Britain in the past only reinforced my vision that the work would hold greater resonance there.

Gibraltar appears to be a haven caught among generations of consistent turmoil between irreconcilable governments. Having explored and documented the culture, in what way do you think this has affected Gibraltarian people and everyday life? I think, to a degree, this has affected the Gibraltarians. I have heard about fisherman being hassled after the Brexit vote went through and threats regarding the border have been made before although nothing too concrete has been put in place as of yet. It does seem to me that each generation of Gibraltarian has got to prove where their loyalties lie, as if those who had voted in 2002 would feel any less British than the generation who voted in 1967, with both outcomes resulting in resounding favour of British sovereignty. 

Image from the series  A Rock and a Hard Place

Image from the series A Rock and a Hard Place

I can completely understand why they would feel very frustrated and a little bit apprehensive that any movement politically that Britain or Spain makes could unearth this issue again and go to a peoples vote, which having spoken to Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia, would no doubt result in the same outcome of the previous two. Gibraltarians are British, although territorially not part of the mainland, which means that Gibraltar has a balancing act on its hands in keeping both Spain, its neighbour, happy while continuing with a proud British identity. 

Your work shows an unwavering loyalty to the UK despite the Gibraltarian people having overwhelming voted to remain. Do you think this support will falter once exit negotiations have come into full effect, especially with Gibraltarian economy relying heavily on Spanish trade and open borders? I think this would be more difficult to foresee because things can change so quickly and go in the opposite direction to what was predicted. There are a couple of things that make Gibraltar such a unique place. One being that they are almost entirely self-governing and completely self-financing which allows them to create their own budgets which in turn has shown economic growth possibly when other EU members have not. While I was there I noticed just how much construction was happening in the area, owing to the high demand for development of properties within an area which is still seen as very attractive to businesses establishing themselves. Gibraltar does rely on Spain for construction and other materials so hypothetically if they chose to cut off these links by a hard border it could have detrimental affects on Gibraltars economy. On the other hand Gibraltar single handedly accounts for 25% GDP of the overall southern region of Andalucía through employment and purchasing of these aforementioned materials so Spain would have to determine whether to lose such a positive partner and think about the social and economic implications of those actions. 

Image from the series  A Rock and a Hard Place

Image from the series A Rock and a Hard Place

Has creating this work shifted your viewpoint on Brexit and what it means to be British? In short regarding whether my viewpoint has been changed, no, it has not due to the fact that there have been no positive steps to come out of the whole process. We have gone through the initial transfer talks, parliamentary meetings to summits and thus far are no closer to agreeing a deal with the EU than when we started in June 2017. 

To be British, for me, is to be proud of my country, respectful and have a sense of belonging. It's also a privilege especially when you turn on the news and see some of the other events that are happening in other parts of the world and I do think this is disregarded a lot of the time. Making the work certainly reinforced my pride in Britain as there’s a real neighbourly atmosphere within Gibraltar shown through the decorative Union Jacks on almost every street as a way of reminding people of their history, back in the UK we only get that robust togetherness feeling when a World Cup is on or its one of the Royals birthdays, but when it happens its certainly a great feeling. 

Image from the series  A Rock and a Hard Place

Image from the series A Rock and a Hard Place

Do you have any plans to continue the project or any other Brexit based work? I do have plans to go back to Gibraltar and continue the project, there’s a few other photographers making work over in that corner which is good because its got a lot to say for itself and the people are really interesting. Brexit is an absolute goldmine for photographic work not just politically but on a social level too as something will always be shifting further down the line so its good to see other creatives exploring these changes. 

I have certainly been taking notes on other potential situations that are developing or will develop when and indeed if we do eventually leave. Theres an argument that if we leave we could capitalise on greater trading with India, The UAE and Japan which could throw up some interesting narratives with opportunities to travel. We will also more than likely feel the effects of Brexit for years to come so there will constantly be new opportunities for work arising closer to home.