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.

An interview with Photograd Open 2018 exhibiting photographer Claire McIntyre

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 Claire McIntyre.


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What was the inspiration for the project? This was my very first venture into the documentary world. Leaving the fashion universe behind, I realised that the garments are still a focus of mine. After an arduous breakup, I took to Tinder and started meeting a number of London guys. I was spending a lot of my time discovering the city though these dates, and decided to start shooting. Tinder became my agent. Through the app, I photographed around 30 men. Conversation and psychology are dear to me. As I chatted with these men, I came to realise how sensitive and genuine they became, being in the comfort of their own home. The conditioning society created - the “male” behaviour - dropped, revealing a beautiful and sensitive soul and consciousness, so often repressed. This led me to be extremely inquisitive in regards to capturing this state. I made it my project to photograph this modern masculinity, men in their comfort zone, through the female gaze. As a female photographer, having power of representation over the masculine body in todays’ society which is extremely self-conscious in regards to external approval seeking is also a theme I explore.

How has the course at The Ravensbourne University shaped your practice? I don’t feel that the institution played any specific part in shaping who I am as a photographer, nor has it had any effect on my work. The tutors, however, have been key in my personal and artistic development. Due to the self-directed nature of the course, I do feel that I had the time and space to move around with ease through a range of photographic disciplines, thus allowing me to try a variety of topics and subjects, allowing me to explore and deepen my research and skills.

Who is your main photographic inspiration? As stereotypical as this may sound, Nan Goldin has been, from day one, my original inspiration. Someone I look up to as a person, as well as an artist. Her work and subject matter, as well as her over all aesthetic seduce me overtime. The raw and genuine elements composting her shots are beautiful and admirable. Wolfgang Tillmans is another artist I admire, shedding a golden light on the scene of everyday life. His curation style is one of my favourites as well, bringing life to the static world of a photography exhibition. Mark Neville and Stefan Ruiz are equally major influences in my work. I like the interactive aspect they practice, creating a bond with their subjects. Most recently I’ve been quite keen on Campbell Addy’s imagery, exploring topics of identity and representation.

What do you want to achieve and say with your portraits? I’ve touched on this earlier. I wish to address the notion of the social pressure and conditioning men go through. My question here is: “What is Masculinity?”. Is it gender related in any way? How conscious are we of our actions and reactions? How programmed are we in relation to our gender and in regards to our surroundings? This series depicts an alternative image of the viral male, not conforming to external pressures.

Do you have a favourite image? And why? I am not precious about the final outcome. This was a very personal project, reflecting my state of mind, as well as the phase I was going through. The process and conversation I developed with the subjects was the interesting part.

What camera and lens did you use? Canon 60D Lens 24-70mm (sometimes 50mm).

What are your future plans for self-development? I am currently the in-house photographer and a booker for Ciel Model Management. In February I will be traveling to Cuba to shoot a series and explore the topic of women and femininity. The female realm has always been harder for me to connect with, thus I wish to challenge myself. I am now in the process of applying for grants and artist residencies abroad, quite keen on developing documentary stories and venturing into photojournalism. I would like to carry one doing social work, bringing the notion of art and photography to troubled youth and prisons, working with individuals eager to tell their stories, as well as their versions and views on this concept we all share and call society.

An interview with Photograd Open 2018 exhibiting photographer Kerry Curl

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 Kerry Curl.


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Who inspired you as a fashion photographer? I’ve just always been interested in style and people. As a child I’d draw fashion designs and would have sketchbooks full of entire wardrobe ideas for films I’d seen. When I thought I was destined to spend my life in call centre type jobs I’d be reading art books as an escape. Tracey Emin’s My Bed, I discovered by looking through those Best Of…, A-Z of Artists type books and not only did I connect with it on first sight, in that way you’re sometimes just grabbed by a piece of music right away, I found the artist herself really interesting. Her story made me question my own. Not coming from a creative family/background I found those books a really accessible way to view and learn about the visual arts. I still do.

There wasn’t really a ‘fashion’ photographer, who made me think ‘I want to do that!’ but the photographer who gave me what I refer to as That Emin feeling was Daido Moriyama. I saw his work exhibited at the Tate in 2012 and that’s when I knew I needed to start thinking about what photography means to me, what do I want from it, how can I learn more?

Although fashion is within my work and most people do refer to me as a fashion photographer, I actually find myself wondering more and more what a fashion photographer is in 2018?  Where do I fit in? Photography genres can and do merge. I’ve really started to question fashion within my work. It is part of the imagery but it’s not the works sole purpose.

A by-product of the way I create is that I often find myself working with second hand clothing. I’ve been wearing second hand clothes since birth really, starting from necessity and then as I got older through choice. It’s not a new notion to me at all. However now this shopping approach, chimes with the increasing interest in the mainstream for sustainability in the fashion industry.

There’s growing desire for sustainable fashion as consumers begin to ask where their clothes come from. Almost paradoxically, the consumer demand for sustainability imposes a commercial imperative on this most egalitarian of impulses. These are interesting times to be contributing to fashion media.

Many people are more conscious than they once were of the social implications of what they buy and wear, rather than the sheer quantity of what they could consume or the status it would afford them. In a portfolio review I once talked about fashion in this way and was told that I wasn’t talking about the photography enough. However as a medium, photography for me is so intertwined with other art forms and our world around us, they exist together and that’s a key part of my work. Beyond fashion, I will always cite music and film as things which inspire me greatly. Inspiration is everywhere, that may be a cliché but it’s true.

What advice would you give someone starting off as a fashion photographer? My honest advice is to drop the focus of ‘fashion’ and just start photographing style/people/subject matters which interest you.

Be inquisitive, be genuinely inquisitive in knowing and learning more, look to different art forms for inspiration. Explore who has influenced your influences. If you are shooting fashion work because you feel you should or it’s a trend you think you must follow, then don’t. That applies across the board with all subject matters really. I wish I could remember who said to me  “show the work you want to talk about” - it’s such sound advice.

What camera do you use for your portraits? My go to camera is a Nikon D810, but I’ll also still use an array of 35mm SLR cameras sometimes and we’re not talking top of the range. I mostly use ones I’ve picked up second hand, some are what would probably be classed as an ‘entry level’ SLR. I’m always in charity and second hand shops looking for things I can use within my work so I pick up random cameras from time to time, even point and shoots. If I can make work with it then I’m interested. I shoot with ANY film I can afford. How amazing it was when Poundland used to sell 35mm film, sadly I think that’s passed but I still always look out for it.

I also really enjoy instant film, I found an old Instax Wide camera in a charity shop for £1.50 which it turned out was in full working order. Although I’ve used Polaroid cameras, Instax film is more friendly for my budget and I’ve also found the film to be more reliable but there is still that interestingly  unpredictable quality of tone and focus which can be bitter-sweet. I read an interview with Brian Eno on openculture.com where he said:
“The real hooks, the moments that we most connect with and return to again and again, are often happy accidents.”

Although he was referring to music, this also really connects to the visual arts for me. The different materials and approaches keep me inquisitive. People have expressed surprise because I like to work with both digital and film but I just don’t feel the need to be exclusively one or the other right now.  I learned photography on film - before digital was a thing. I just like cameras really, not from a techno-geek sense, just as a physical object that I can create imagery with.

Where did you study? I did my BA (Hons) Photography at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) , graduating with a 1st in 2017. I was thirty seven when I started my degree, although during my twenties and thirties I was lucky enough to access the adult education system whilst courses such as photography were much more available and accessible, with many classes being conducted in local secondary schools.

Indeed my first City and Guilds course was in my old school, which is ironic as the art options available when I was actually at that school as a teenager, were somewhat lacking and photography was certainly not on the curriculum. The Adult Education offerings, certainly in Norwich have changed so much over the last decade, they’ve really declined in course choice and have become much more expensive. This is a real shame.

Do you think social media such as Instagram has an effect on photography; does it benefit your work? Interesting question. I have a bit of a love vs ‘bored now’ relationship with social media but there’s no doubt that platforms like Instagram have democratised access to images and ideas that would once have been obscure or inaccessible.  You are not restricted to the grubby dog-eared stock in your under-resourced local library, or on what happens to be flavour of the month in The Face or NME.  Today, an image maker can be a self-curating cultural magpie in a way a predecessor even just a few years ago could not have imagined. However, I do feel lucky to know what life without social media was like...

It concerns me that it’s easy to put pressure on ourselves to constantly be ‘seen’ to be making work, checking if it’s being well received etc when really we just tossing it out in to an unknown seemingly ever changing algorithm which is someone else’s business model and so we are not really in control of its future anyway.

The positives are that it’s a great way to meet people to work with and it’s brilliant as a way to stay in touch. It can be a very supportive place but there’s a tipping point and it’s important to remind ourselves that we are more than a number.

What are your future aims and do they include photography? It feels like it’s taken me so long to finally be working with photography (my creative life has been far from linear!) that I can’t imagine photography not being a part of my future. I’m always questioning my practice, I learned through keeping journals at uni that I’m naturally a reflective person and that the work I make is often a response to what’s around me.

I’m planning on returning to education to do an MA in two or three years time. At present, I really want to spend some time making new work and gaining more experience out in the world - all of which I can take with me to my next education phase. I was approached by a uni professor who very kindly visited my degree show work and he suggested I could think about going straight for a PhD which whilst amazing to hear and has certainly made think of the long term possibilities, I feel personally if there is a PhD within my work (within me...)  then an MA is the stepping stone that I need to get me there. I can’t image not returning to education, it may sound dramatic but it has been life changing. It’s not a case of if I go back, it’s just a matter of when.

My degree show, final uni project and my dissertation continues to inform my personal work and ideas.  The show featured installation work of a seventies inspired lounge which I really enjoyed creating. The space invited the viewer to become part of the work. With my photography on the walls and my moving image work looping on period correct televisions, everyday I observed how the audience interacted with the work and I became even more convinced that photography for me was about imagery across disciplines and multi-media innovation, driving me to question the role of a photographer today.

I didn’t realise at the time when I was hauling pieces of furniture across London for my degree show installation that this wasn’t actually the final product, but in fact it was further research. I’m so glad I helped look after the degree show everyday because being able to watch the reactions to my work was really a lightbulb moment about it’s possibilities.

I’d love to exhibit again, I’m planning to keep working through ideas using photography, moving image and installation and I’m also looking at releasing work within a zine format. Ultimately I just want to keep making work which interests me enough to continue making more work.

Featuring 2018 photography graduates

New Photograd content | Supporting 2018 photography graduates from UK based courses.

This summer Photograd are supporting a number of 2018 photography graduates from UK based courses through interviews, sharing of work, and promotion to a much wider audience. Selected from a recent call for work across social media were, in total, 12 new graduates who we are sharing the work of. We're appreciating some noticeable trends in photography over the last couple of years and new content on the Photograd platform brings you still life, responses to current affairs, exploration of family heritage, and industrial effects upon the landscape.


University of the West of England graduate Tom Roche presents his series Black Blood on the Photograd Spotlight in which he explores his own Romany Gypsy heritage through stories and speculation. We asked Tom about his university experience, his use of photography to find a sense of 'home', and his future plans, in particular how he will make Black Blood interestingly presented on the web.

The documentary collection of archival images, and both medium and large format prints, presented together provoke some interesting thoughts about family, heritage, and the future. 

Images from the series  Black Blood  by Tom Roche

Images from the series Black Blood by Tom Roche

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We selected Norwich University of the Arts graduate Holly Farndell to takeover the Photograd Instagram at the end of July with her documentary work.

"Golden Promise was created from Autumn through to Spring as a documentation of light and the changing of seasons. With a short escape from grey old England to sun-washed Spain, it is an observation of my experience with seasonal affective disorder and coping with the light and darkness of life."

You can follow along to find out more about Holly and her work from Sunday 29th July - Saturday 4th August.

Images from the series  Golden Promise  by Holly Farndell

Images from the series Golden Promise by Holly Farndell

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Falmouth University graduate Caterina Lombardi presents us with her series SATIS on the Photograd Spotlight. In here interview, Caterina presents her still life images and accompanying video. Caterina takes inspiration from traditional still life paintings and intends to educate the viewer on certain current affairs. Each of her images are uniquely titled in Latin to give everybody the opportunity to decipher subject matter.

ABORTUS IURA  from the series  SATIS  by Falmouth University graduate  Caterina Lombardi

ABORTUS IURA from the series SATIS by Falmouth University graduate Caterina Lombardi

OBSTETRICANTE VIOLENTIAM  from the series  SATIS  by Falmouth University graduate  Caterina Lombardi

OBSTETRICANTE VIOLENTIAM from the series SATIS by Falmouth University graduate Caterina Lombardi

 

Nine highly commended 2018 photography graduates from UK based courses were also selected from this call for work to be represented on the Photograd blog. These bodies of work stood out to us for many reasons and we took this opportunity to share them.

Miguel Proença ,  The Buzzer (ZhUOZ)

Miguel ProençaThe Buzzer (ZhUOZ)

Luke Hurlock ,  Tokamak Fusion

Luke HurlockTokamak Fusion

Chiara Avagliano ,  Val Paradiso

Chiara AvaglianoVal Paradiso

University of Westminster graduate Luke Hurlock presents Tokamak Fusion which documents the current state of advancements in the field of nuclear fusion research. The word Tokamak comes from the Russian Toroidalnaya Kamera I Magnitnaya Katushka (Toroidal Chamber and Magnetic Coil) an is in reference to the fusion devices used by the leading fusion experiments. The images in this project aim to both intrigue and inform the viewer on the progress of a future technology that promises to solve one of humanity’s biggest problems, clean renewable energy production.

 

London College of Communication graduate Chiara Avagliano explores the places she grew up in Val Paradiso. "

The mountain scenery blends with the hills of the countryside colliding in a space inhabited by childhood memories, magical encounters, teenage adventures, mystical experiences, idealised love and a magical bond between girls that echoes ancient rituals and witchcraft. 

The fictional documentary work is a coming of age tale, retold from different points of view. 

Personal experiences are narrated and transformed, almost becoming legends whispered softly, from mouth to mouth, from me to my half-sister and her girlfriends."

The Gatekeepers (work in progress) by Alex Ingram

The University of The West of England, Bristol graduate Alex Ingram was featured on Photograd previously with his series David's House. The series was published into a photobook in 2016 and Alex is now working in a new series of work, The Gatekeepers, which featured in the first edition of our zine, PGZ129, released earlier this year.

We introduce you here to images from The Gatekeepers which is currently a work in progress as Alex continues to return to the islands to make more images.


Scattered across the small islands surrounding the UK live lone wardens, spending their lives in quiet solidarity, away from the crowded, overpopulated landscapes of our urban world. Their role: to maintain and manage the preservation of their islands natural beauty and wildlife for future generations, whilst conducting research into these incredibly delicate ecosystems.

With limited access to the mainland during the winter months, no fresh running water, and under constant attack from harsh storms and perilous currents that can see them marooned for weeks at a time, it is not a role many are suited for.

What is it like living so close to the mainland, but yet so far removed from social norms? How do they cope when the currents are too strong to make it back over for fresh food and supplies? What is it like living without the modern day technologies that we take for granted? And how do they adapt and overcome these daily obstacles with limited human contact?

Over the next two years, these are the questions I want to explore. I will be visiting these remote islands and spending time with the wardens that have chosen to spend their lives there, in the hopes of better understanding what life is like living in some of the most beautiful, yet inhospitable landscapes in the UK.

In a world that is changing at a rapid pace, I want to question how this simplistic way of life fits within our modern world. 

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All images from the series  The Gatekeepers

All images from the series The Gatekeepers

Photograd Experience: Arron Hansford - MA Photography at MMU

We recently chatted to Arron Hansford, a current MA Photography student at Manchester Metropolitan University, about his education experience, current body of work, and future plans. Continue reading to see what Arron has to say.


Introduction: I am Arron Hansford. I am an artist currently living and working in Manchester. I am studying towards my MA in Photography at Manchester Metropolitan University. I mainly work with photography but my work has included moving image, sound and poetry, it tends to be routed within the confessional art movement, taking inspiration from artists such as Tracy Emin, and Louise Bourgeois, and has explored subjects such as mental health, relationships and self discovery, I like to leave entrances in my work and allow my audience to find their own way into the art, my work has been described as cryptic and emotionally driven, and relies very much on the spontaneity of feeling.

 
Test series from current work  Father Please , 2017

Test series from current work Father Please, 2017

 

Experience: I completed my BA studies in Photography back in 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University. I like to be honest with people regarding my experience during my BA, and I can openly admit that I did not take full advantage of my time there. I did come out with a fairly good grade but I feel I was not ready at the time to study for my BA. My understanding and approach to my art at the time was not mature, and this does show from the work I produced during my time there. MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University) is fantastic for nurturing creativity, but as with many things in life you get out of it what you put in.

I started my MA in September 2016. Following my BA I had bounced from one unsatisfying job to another, but I was still pursuing my passion for art on the side. Over the years following my BA my understanding and appreciation for art had began to mature, along with my practice, and in 2016 I felt ready again to pursue my art full time, feeling comfortable with MMU from my BA days I decided to re enrol.

Upon starting my MA I immediately loved the freedom that came with the course; being able to set your own brief from initial research to the planning of the final exhibition has allowed me to work on my own terms and completely in my own style. Alongside this I have massively enjoyed being back and working with like minded people; we meet every Wednesday to discuss our progress together and I’ve found the consistent advice and feedback from my peers to be crucial in my development as an artist. My MA has been very self driven as you have to manage your own time and encourage yourself to work which helps build professional thinking.

 
From the series  Father Please

From the series Father Please

 

Our current timetable is quite intense. We have 1 year (2 years part time) to work on a single project which will be our final major piece. Placed throughout this year are 2 extra modules; a professional platform module (which allows you to chose an outside work placement) and an optional unit (optional units from health and wellbeing to archival work, encouraging collaboration with other artists).

Work and outcome: My current piece for my MA is entitled Father Please and is an exploration of my difficult relationship with my father, I knew that I wanted to undertake this project before applying for my MA so I used the concept as the written proposal for my course application. Since starting on the course the work has evolved so much, and in a positive way is almost unrecognisable from my original concept, and I have been encouraged regularly to try new approaches and ideas by my tutor that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. The subject matter for my series as with a lot of my work, is highly personal, and my tutors and peers have treated the project with respect and understanding.

Alongside my series of photographic images for Father Please is a selection of sound bites. These sounds are from the breaking down of the image using a programme called audacity. When the image has been broken down the raw data becomes audible. Experimenting with sound is something that I had only slight experience with, but I have been collaborating with the sound department at MMU and they have been more than happy to help and to share their knowledge.

 
From the series  Father Please

From the series Father Please

 

The work so far has lead to deeper theoretical thinking in regards to how we construct photographic images, and how we ‘place’ messages within them. I am currently conducting research into steganography and the parallels it draws photography and art in general. Upon completing my MA in September 2017 I wish to pursue a PHD, but may possibly go through the route of an MFA, the idea of which is being encouraged by my peers and tutors.

Artist Statement: Father Please is a photographic and audio exploration of a struggling relationship between a father and a son. My relationship with my father has always been a difficult one; we struggle to connect on an emotional level, so much so that at some points in our lives we have appeared almost like strangers. Throughout my life my father has had a habit of giving me items that he no longer needs or wants, and I have seen this as an attempt to build bridges and an attempt to communicate on his part, however over the years I have found the whole process to be stifling and it has seemed to build bigger barriers and further break down any communication.

 
From the series  Father Please

From the series Father Please

 

The images for Father Please are performances, staged using the transitional objects passed down to me, the objects are juxtaposed in such a way as to obscure the son and to halt any attempt at communication, and in effect are gagging him. Objects are something that I have used extensively within my work both in the past and currently; I feel that everyday objects carry a certain power when it comes to explaining situations and lives.

The use of sound comes from the need for me to give a voice to the character within the images, and to use that voice to try and reach out to his father and be heard for the first time, it relies on the intonation of the sounds to carry a message of desperation and need.

Future: Father Please will be exhibited at Manchester Metropolitan University in September 2017. I will continue to work on the series up until then and also continue my research into steganography and the communicatory power of photography and art. I will then begin to apply for a PHD position within the university for which MMU currently has funding. After this I would like to begin lecturing in photography and art.

Overall I am so glad that I took time out between my MA and BA, it gave me time to develop personally as an artist, I think sometime it's very easy to become controlled by an academic environment. It's good to know who you are as an artist and where you want to go before settling into such a serious commitment.