Photograd interviews Nicholas Priest

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we have interviewed some photography graduates from the submissions received for the Photograd blog. Here we have an interview with Birmingham City University graduate and current MA student at the University of Gloucestershire Nicholas Priest.


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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

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

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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

Image from the series  A46

Image from the series A46

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

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

Introducing Flourish

In this blog post we introduce you to Flourish, a magazine all about thriving in a particular place, community, culture and flourishing in the outdoors. Flourish are currently seeking support through their Kickstarter campaign to bring their second issue to life which will be all about the British Isles. Check out their great rewards here - we’ve pre-ordered ourselves a copy!


Volume 1 of Flourish

Volume 1 of Flourish

My name is Lucy Jane Saunders and I am a Bath Spa University Photography graduate. I started photography years before going to university as a hobby, inspired by the disposable film camera images my dad would bring home and develop after his travels abroad. I never anticipated it could become my job, yet it slowly immersed me into the world of photography and its potentials. At university my style narrowed and I found my preferred way of working. Photographers such as Jon Tonks, Colin Pantell and Robert Darch inspired my documentary approach to photographing. Yet being outdoors, travelling, and finding new locations really motivated me to keep making new work. 

After graduating two years ago I started freelancing alongside setting up the magazine publication ‘Flourish’. I have always adored working within print production and love magazine design. I initially created it out of pure passion, the desire to create new work, and design pages where photographs and text interacted on the page telling stories. But once the first volume was made I almost felt selfish keeping it to myself… the stories I had encountered travelling, the archive of photographs I had collected and the other people I collaborated with. I decided to launch a Kickstarter Campaign to see if other creatives would be interested in supporting the publication to get the magazine to print. To my surprise we achieved our target! People from all over the world backed the campaign and three months later we had enough funding to get the magazine to the printers. I sat in the post office for hours posting a host of magazines to backers and from there I tried to gain stockists to hold the rest.

Flourish became a brand rooted from its definition: “(of a living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment.” As humans we are constantly seeking new, intriguing, and stimulating locations to explore, travel, and experience. Flourish aims to capture those moments we treasure; the bright colours, the tastes we remember, and most importantly the time spent thriving within that place. 

I wanted to capture not only the sensual elements of a location, but also its underlying struggles, and those who have met and overcome the challenges of sustainability. Those who live from the land, create from the land, and are protecting and flourishing with the nature that surrounds them.  

In recent years, photographic magazines have been blurring the lines between books and throwaway publications. Flourish is a magazine with stability, acting as a visual map for your mind, a great piece of reading material for your rucksack, and some inspiration to enjoy with your morning coffee. 

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Flourish will remind you that life is an experience, to capture those moments from other lives you cross paths with, to think more about what surrounds us in the landscapes you gaze at, and to speculate more on your next adventure.

Over the past year Flourish has thrived and I started to stock the publication in more and more independent stores. Due to the unexpected work I had to start bringing people on board and the Flourish team started to grow. My amazing supportive family started to help me get a website together, social media sites, help package, proof read and blog. It almost became a full time job for myself. 

My biggest achievement for the publication so far was definitely an unexpected win at the Creative Bath Awards in the summer of 2018. Winning Young Creative was an outstanding achievement for myself and for the magazine team. As we went from strength to strength I found the need to make more work and I was conscious people would be expecting a second volume. Depleted of money with the print of volume 1 and the lack of freelance work I could do, I find myself back in the same position as I was in with volume 1…. It’s never easy setting up a business and the profit from print is minimal, at least for the first couple of volumes. I have set up another Kickstarter to support volume 2 titled A Snippet of The British Isles where we collaborate with more photographers, writers and illustrators than we did previously in volume 1. 

Our Kickstarter Campaign is now in its last 30 days, so we are currently half way through. We are really close to making our target to get the publication to print and we would love the support of fellow photographers, creatives, and others who are passionate about the subject of Travel, Culture, Sustainability and Outdoor Living. Our campaign acts as a pre-ordering service…. where you can pre-order volume 2 A Snippet of The British Isles but also the possibility of gaining other rewards such a one off prints, illustrations and getting your name within the volume. 

If you would be interested in supporting the publication please visit our page here.

I am always on the look out for new photographers to feature within the publication. I love collaborating and love working with other graduates and fresh graduates as I was once in this position myself. I am always on the look out for something unique… someone who can create innovate stories through their pictures and who are enthusiastic about their work! 

Darren O'Brien - Hanoi

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can catch up on his other posts here.

Darren writes here in his final post about his trip to Hanoi. Enjoy!


Sadly this is my last blog post which means my trip has come to an end. For the final few days I spent time in the chaotic capital of Vietnam, Hanoi.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

I felt at home in the city and enjoyed wandering the streets and capturing life going on around me. Hanoi is a busy and exciting place. The old quarter is a warren of narrow streets lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. So much of daily life takes place on the streets and that makes it great for street photography.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

Vietnam is the third largest exporter of coffee in the world and there are cafes everywhere. Iced coffee with condensed milk is their specialty, perfect for hot days when you've been pounding the pavements. Hanoi also has some excellent street food. Bun Cha was my favourite; it’s a tasty combo of grilled pork slices and meatballs, broth, herbs and noodles.

I spent a little time doing touristy things, but I was really there to enjoy and capture the atmosphere of the city. The city has a great vibe, it feels hectic and relaxed at the same time. Even just crossing the street through streams of scooters feels like a challenge and you feel happy to be alive when you reach the other side.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

The Train Street was interesting to see. People going about their lives right beside the tracks. The train comes through about twice a day and when it's due everyone clears off the tracks and disappears into their homes. Unfortunately the arrival of the train brings a lot of tourists which does slightly ruin the magic of the moment, but hey I was one of them.

Hoan Kiem Lake is a great area for people watching and street photography. This is the main hub for people to get together. In the mornings people jog, do Tai Chi and dance in big groups. On Friday and Saturday evenings all the roads around the lake are closed and the place fills with thousands of people, playing games, watching street entertainers, singing ad hoc karaoke, and walking their fancy dogs.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

Apart from all the interesting sights and scenes, the main thing that made shooting in Vietnam a pleasure was how friendly and accommodating the people are. As long as I was respectful and flashed a smile most people were happy to be photographed. I would definitely have liked a bit more time to get to know Hanoi and dig a bit deeper. I was there for 3 full days but a month would be ideal to really get beneath the surface. I’d also like to spend more time in the newer parts of the city.

Overall the trip was an excellent experience and I have some solid work to go towards my MA portfolio. Now I just have to go through the thousands of images, edit them down and relive the memories.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

I would recommend Vietnam, particularly Hanoi, for any photographer. The mix of dramatic landscapes and buzzing street scenes will test all aspects of your practice.

Thank you for reading and thanks to Photograd for asking me to blog during my trip. Any questions about travelling in Vietnam or my work then get in touch via my website or on one of my social media channels. Bye for now.

Darren O'Brien - Vietnam

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can catch up on his other posts here.

Darren writes here about his trip to Sapa and Ta Van. Enjoy!


The Road from Lao Cai to Sapa winds its way steeply through the mountains. The hairpin corners are tight and the traffic is chaotic.  Huge trucks trek up the mountains delivering supplies to the villages and resources for the construction boom currently overtaking Sapa. On more than one occasion our driver attempted to overtake a lorry that was overtaking another lorry, whilst dodging vehicles and/or buffalo coming the other way.

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

After 5 hours in the minibus we arrived in Sapa.  On first impressions the town itself appears a strange mix of Vietnamese town and a European alpine resort. There is even an old alpine-style church in the main square. We didn't hang about as we grabbed a taxi to take us 10km to the village of Ta Van.

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Roads, distances and timings are a loose concept in this part of Vietnam, especially when you are using google maps to find your home stay. Some of the roads marked on the map are little more than paths wide enough for a motorbike (definitely the best way to get around). As such our taxi driver kindly drove around in circles trying to find our accommodation before realising that the road shown on the map was a footpath. After a couple of phone calls to our host we were dropped off and they came to meet us and showed us the rest of the way.

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

If traveling in this area I would recommend staying at least one night in a home stay in one of the villages. There are quite a few in Ta Van village. The principle is that you stay with a local family in their home, although some of them operate more like b&bs. They are a good additional source of income alongside growing rice, rearing livestock and making handicrafts. Our home stay, Lazy Crazy Homestay, run by John and his friends, was a quirky place, with great views over Ta Van, rice fields and bamboo forests. It was a great place to begin exploring the local villages and countryside.

In Ta Van there are plenty of local guides that will take you on a hike, and most homestays and hotels will organise them too. We decided to walk without a guide to the next village and explore the small paths that led through the rice fields and village outskirts. The H’Mong tribes that live in this area are really friendly and as long as you are respectful, no area is off limits. Some of the tracks we followed led directly to people's homes but nobody bothered that we were there and there would always be a friendly face to point us in the right direction.

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

Whilst in Ta Van I worked on a project exploring the Vietnamese legend “Why Ducks Sleep Standing on One Leg”.  The legend goes that in the beginning there were four ducks who only had one leg. They were jealous of the other animals with two legs so reasoned with the creator to give them a precious extra leg. To prevent their new legs from being stolen they hid them from view at night and all the other ducks followed this believing it to be the way it should be. The legend speaks of the Vietnamese attitudes to the land and agriculture, which I am hoping the project will also reflect.

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

After Ta Van we spent a couple of days in and around Sapa town. The town is often covered in cloud and mist which makes for some interesting images. At night the fog, the building work and the neon lit signage lends the town an eerie feel.

I have one more post to come in this series, when I will be exploring the streets of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. After my brief encounters earlier in the trip I am really looking forward to it…...

Darren O'Brien - Ha Long Bay

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can read his other posts here.

Darren writes here about his trip to Ha Long Bay. Enjoy!


I am sitting at a local home stay in the village of Tavan, looking out over the rice terraces of Northern Vietnam. It is a magical and tranquil environment to be writing this post in.

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

I will write about my experience of Tavan later, but for now this is a short post about my trip to Ha Long Bay. Located 3 hours drive North East of Hanoi, the bay consists of around 2,500 limestone islands protruding from the ocean. I will confess that I organised this trip through a tour company (Indochina Junk) and it was all about rest and relaxation. I don’t usually book onto tours as I prefer to do my own thing but it is the easiest way to visit the bay. It felt strange to have everything looked after, from pick up from the hotel to boarding the boat with eight strangers, but it definitely met the relaxing brief.

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is incredible, beautiful and breathtaking. It is also incredibly touristy. Our tour tried to find the less touristy areas, but that means you are surrounded by 15 other boats rather than 50. The tour included kayaking, beaches, caves and lots of food and beer!

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

Photographically it didn't do much for me, I am not a landscape photographer and it is often hazy at sunrise and sunset. I would love to do a project on the local fishing vessels and how the fishing trade and environment is changing, but that would need more organisation.

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

I didn't make much work that will feature in my MA project, but that didn't stop me having a good time.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

Now I am working on a small project whilst in Tavan and Sapa. I have also already spent a couple of nights in Hanoi, either side of the boat trip, and all I can say is that I am looking forward to spending time exploring the streets in that buzzing city later in the trip. Until next time…..

Darren O'Brien - Singapore

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can read his introductory post here.

Darren writes here about his 3 day stopover in Singapore. Enjoy!


I’m sitting in a hotel in Hanoi and have just had an amazing first meal of Bun Cha. I arrived this afternoon following a 3 day stopover in Singapore. We stopped in Singapore because my partner Sian lived there for 6 years when she was younger and it was her first time back in 20 years. It was my first time visiting the country so it was interesting to see the sights and share the memories. 

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Driving in from the airport the first thing I noticed was how clean and orderly the city is. Everything has its place and is signposted. We later realised, while watching people clean the river with a boat that scoops up trash, that there is a massive workforce employed to keep Singapore looking pristine. Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world and it needs to keep up appearances.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

After the 15 hour flight and crossing time zones my main aim was not to succumb to jet lag. So after dumping the bags at the hotel it was straight out to explore. Despite being in South East Asia, some areas of Singapore feel like a European city. Drinking a (very expensive) beer by the river at Clarke Quay, surrounded by an international crowd, I could have been in Amsterdam.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

In the evening I headed to the Gardens by the Bay complex. This awe-inspiring feat of architecture, sculpture and nature consists of garden domes (similar to the Eden Project biomes) and the Supertree Grove, a group of massive tree-like sculptures that are studded with plants and light up spectacularly at dusk.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Nearly everything in Singapore is geared up for either entertainment, shopping or eating.  Every block has at least one shopping mall, in some areas there were two malls opposite each other.  Food plays a big part in Singapore culture and there are many restaurants and cafes, but the best food I ate was at the many food courts. There are some purpose built ones around and most malls have one too. I enjoyed well priced food from all across South East Asia and China. Chicken Rice is one of the local specialties and Sian’s favourite dish, although I am personally not convinced, she ate four plates in 3 days.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Whilst in Singapore I was shooting work for my Masters project and found the city a very easy place to shoot in. Though it lacks the bustle and energy of some cities, the architecture and cityscapes are excellent. The people are friendly and you can work in close proximity to people and they are generally happy to be photographed. On the second day we headed to Little India and Chinatown and these were my two favourite places to photograph as there was a little more going on on the streets. The food courts were also good value for photo opportunities.  Surprisingly the MRT trains were also quite fun to work on, again people paid no notice of the camera and if I was noticed people often responded with a simile and a nod of the head, a refreshing change from the UK streets. 

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Now our Vietnam adventure begins and in the few hours we've been here I can see this going to be a completely different challenge. Until next time……

Darren O'Brien - An Introduction

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University.

We're looking forward to finding out more about Darren and his travel experiences.


Hi, my name is Darren. I am a Documentary Photographer and photojournalist based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Between the 25th of March and the 8th of April I will be travelling to Singapore and Vietnam and I have been invited by Photograd to keep a travel diary of my experiences to share on the blog, along with images from the trip. I hope to do this as I travel, WiFi access permitting. Before I leave I want to introduce myself and give a little bit of background to my work.

From the series  And Other Stories

From the series And Other Stories

I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Brighton before commencing on my career as a photographer. After experimenting with various photographic disciplines, I settled into my current career as a photojournalist. Over the past few years I have had work published in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times and The Times. In 2013 my project Anywhere But Home was published as a book by Brown Owl Press. This project explored the idea of home whilst travelling in a foreign land, which is definitely a theme that creeps into a lot of my work.  

Deciding that it was time to reflect on my practice and explore a more academic approach to photography I started an MA in Photography at Falmouth University through their flexible learning program. I am currently working my way through the second module and will be using images from my trip to Singapore and Vietnam as part of my submitted portfolio for the course.

From the series  And Other Stories

From the series And Other Stories

I am also putting together a body of work called And Other Storieswhich aims to deconstruct conventional forms of narrative through street photography and reportage. It is a new direction for me, influenced by the style and ascetic of the Provoke era of Japanese street photography in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It plays with the traditional tropes of technical perfection and, for me at least, is a more personal experience. It has a greater emphasis on feelings and spontaneity which contrasts with my more prescriptive work as a photojournalist.

During my trip I will share work from this project plus some of my more documentary images as we travel around. I am travelling with my partner, Sian, who lived in Singapore for 6 years, so the stop off there will have extra meaning. It will be interesting to see what her memories are of the place, 20 years on.

From the series  And Other Stories

From the series And Other Stories

For the Vietnam leg of the journey it is really all about exploring somewhere that neither of us have been before. When visiting a new place I have a childlike curiosity and excitement which I hope comes through in my photography. We are focussing on the Northern part of Vietnam with stops in Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay and finally Hanoi.

I look forward to sharing my images and experiences with you and hopefully will be an inspiration to get out and explore.

You can find more of my work on my website and follow me on Instagram and Twitter.