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.

Introducing Landform

In this blog post we introduce you to Landform, a network developed to promote and support the work of female landscape photographers. Supporting each other in practice and engagement with landscape.


Image by Lisa Bond

Image by Lisa Bond

Who are you, what’s your motto? I am Cath Stanley, a landscape and fine art photographer based in Manchester.  I am one of the members of FORM Collective, a relatively new collective who has just completed a successful first year.

What’s your background? Have you studied photography? I graduated with a creative arts degree and have taught graphics and photography in further education for the last 17 years. Having taught in an art department you become quite familiar with many creative techniques, my last project took on a more mixed media style.

I am part of FORM collective, a group of talented photographers and image makers from across the UK.  Last year we put together our first exhibition at the collective hub as part of Brighton Photo Fringe.  

Image by Cath Stanley

Image by Cath Stanley

What’s your favourite style of photography? That is a difficult question, I actually like and appreciate a lot of different styles of photography. Although my main work is based in the area of landscape, I often find great interest in alternative photography techniques, I like the aesthetic of film and some of the camera-less methods. I like photography with an interesting story behind it, something that opens conversations or raises questions, expresses a point of view or just simply engages the audience in different ways.  

Who motivates you? I love travel and adventure, I like exploring and different types of landscape really motivate me. I have always been a bit of a daydreamer and spent quite a bit of my early education staring out of the window at the outdoors. The idea of just being able to lose yourself amongst mist shrouded mountains, or explore wild moors, see sun rays beaming through clouds or capture forests of tightly knit trees, it is the landscape itself gives me a real sense of wellbeing. Sometimes I return to locations and document the change in seasonal colours as this particularly interests me.

Image by Joanne Coates

Image by Joanne Coates

Can you tell us what Landform is? I set up Landform as a network to develop, promote and support the work of female photographers who are interested in landscape. Through social media, meet ups at various locations around the UK, photo walks, portfolio/work reviews, workshops and possible exhibitions it is my aim to support others in our practice and engagement with landscape.

Landform aims to bring female photographers together, of all levels and abilities, to encourage a supportive group, to share good practice and skills, whilst exploring new areas within the landscape as a group. 

What were your initial aims and inspirations when putting ideas together for Landform? There are lots of reasons to why I set up Landform, firstly landscape photography can be quite solitary and some of the best light to capture during the day is tricky especially if you live in a city. Having a community, a group of like-minded individuals to support and share good practice with means we can explore and engage new locations safely.  

There is also a real imbalance of female photographers to males in industry, with just under 30%, maybe even less in landscape. As a female landscape photographer, full time teacher and a mum it is very hard to gain a balance, to juggle all the responsibilities to just be able to drop everything and go out to take photographs. Most importantly that no matter what your photographic ability is or whether using a mobile phone, I would like Landform to be open to all.

Image by Lisa Bond

Image by Lisa Bond

What is Landforms biggest achievement to date? Landform is very much within its infancy, but I have had overwhelming support from both other photography networks and groups of people who are interested in supporting or joining me at events. I am a big fan of using social media to share other peoples accounts and promote work, I think that sometimes as photography can be quite isolated and using social media can be for some quite daunting it is difficult to become lost, especially as landscape photography is so popular. I have received so many positive and heart-warming messages from followers who are genuinely surprised that I have shared their accounts. 

Image by Joanne Coates

Image by Joanne Coates

How can photographers get involved in what you do? Landform on Instagram offers a place for female landscape photographers or image makers of any level to share their images, it is a platform to promote their work and a space that is a supportive community for other like-minded individuals.   

Later this year I am running a series of social meet ups and photo walks out in the Peak District and other locations, building our community and enabling individuals to meet, share good practice, create new opportunities 

Image by Cath Stanley

Image by Cath Stanley

Give one tip to new photography graduates? Opportunities, take opportunities and then create opportunities for others because everyone needs a bit of help just to grow and to believe in themselves.

What does 2019 have in store for Landform? As Landform is still in its very early stages I am hoping to establish a community and the support for others grows both on social media and on photo walks.