We recently called for work from both BA and MA photographers who are graduating from a UK university course this year. You can find our final selections and see interviews here.
We selected Falmouth University BA (Hons) Photography 2019 graduate Charlotte Macaulay to interview about her university experience, final body of work, and future plans.
that Thing over there
A cultural critique of the dissociation of ourselves as a species, that Thing over there poetically calls for a reconstruction of how we have previously thought of us, the environment, and this coexistence. We are no longer able to exist ignorantly to the burden we impart on the earth, and so must alter not only our physical actions but emphasise, with great gravity, the importance of our innate emotional connections. This body of work highlights the disparity between the sensory way in which we know the environment to exist and the statistical, data-based approach taken more so in the West with discussions around nature’s decline. A breakdown of the roots of this current global crisis, that Thing over there takes a philosophical based approach, rather than scientific, in order to open up the door to a much larger and pressing discussion surrounding the climate.
Tell us about your university and degree show experience. What did you enjoy the most and what do you think you will miss now you're a new graduate? Falmouth University honestly was the perfect place for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better pace to study at (or better people to study with), however I think it’s hard to fully see what I valued the most while I was there and immersed in my degree. Now that I’ve left and started to make some new work I’ve noticed how freeing and also invaluable it was to be able to make work external to the eyes of others in the industry. While I’m excited to start making my own work in my own time, the freedom that came with being able to experiment and produce some different work without worry really helped me figure out what I actually want to create. Degree show wise, it was fab seeing student’s work from other universities and see what people have spent three years working towards outside of what we’ve known at Falmouth.
Typically, what sort of work do you like to make and why? My work has always been very contextually based, with a heavy foundation in philosophy; shaping ideas around the influence of culture on the human unconscious. There are strong symbolic elements that run throughout each image and these typically serve a purpose beyond just the creation of a certain aesthetic. I want to create a deeply emotional experience for the viewer, of beauty and presence through visual poetry. My work tends to be able to be separately appreciated at a visual and a contextual level, with an inexplicit connection between the two. I want the aesthetics of my work to evoke emotion and draw someone in, and for the context to be an outlet of understanding and the start of a conversation.
Who or what inspires you the most and motivates you to make work? Fundamentally I think it really helps me to have a focus and I get a lot personally out of making work for myself, but the passion and drive comes from trying to find the best way I can to start much needed conversations that I want to be had. The first port of call for nearly all of my work has been more traditional art, mainly religious and dutch paintings. I take a lot of inspiration and aesthetics from the approaches to composition and integrated symbolism, most notably religious symbols and the lighting used throughout some dutch works. Contextually, over the past year or so I’ve been reading a lot of critical works from Heidegger, Baudrillard and more currently, Timothy Morton. Photographer wise, I really love the works of Rinko Kawauchi, Albarrán Cabrera and Bill Viola.
What is it about current environmental issues that encouraged you to make this series? The urgency. I think with the environmental issues in particular over other world affairs, theres an emotional dissociation at the root of it. When we aren’t emotionally connected to something it becomes difficult to feel consistently and genuinely motivated to work towards an effective resolution. Approaches to many of the larger environmental issues such as climate change and plastic pollution have been action based, with such things as reduction in single use plastics, rather than thought based. While I totally support the benefits of these changes, an alteration in cultural thinking and understanding would act as the driving force behind the upkeep of such actions, that of which I hope my work to start a conversation around. Especially in current political times where change wont be first brought about institutionally, it’s the public consciousness that will be the driving force.
Without forcing issues upon viewers, your images give time to reflect upon your narrative. Was it a conscious decision of yours to ask your viewer to think a little deeper? Definitely. I don’t feel a need for each image to convey the underlying context, but to draw each person in if they wish to be. I think images that explicitly remind us of our wrongdoings and impart guilt can easily shut us down and repel us from the core of the problem portrayed. The inexplicit and delicate nature through which my work hopefully brings up such a conversation, does just that: brings up a conversation and a call to awareness rather than blame. I also hope for the work to be understood differently once the viewer has thought a little deeper. This runs parallel with the way we experience the world. Our appreciation of what we see alters once we have understood more about it and consequently, a greater respect grows from this.
How did you present this series at your degree show? I showed five images at my degree show. I had one image larger and unframed, held up by small white bulldog clips and overlapped with a much smaller image, framed with white. The other three images were also in a white frame but placed next to or under the larger piece. I’m never fully happy with my work so still have a lot of plans on how to exhibit in the future and want to continue printing larger and on vinyl whenever I next can.
Tell us about your research for this series. I have a lot of ideas and research around this work so keeping this shorter is hard! I began reading Timothy Morton’s works on the philosophy around ecology, becoming focused on understanding the reasons behind our emotional dissociation from the environment. The perspective that has been developed culturally of seeing humans as the most central and important being formed the basis of my research. I drew from the anthropocentric positioning of humans in the Bible, one of the most prominent influence for thousands which has this ideal at its heart. A lot of Christian symbolism is featured throughout my work and practice. I continued on from this to compare with Eastern cultures and the different approaches to the natural world in the traditions and philosophies behind Japanese gardens. The harmony between man and nature comes from respect and the understanding that man is a part of this, rather than above.
What are your future plans as a new graduate? So far I’ve given myself a few months off after our final shows. I think I’ve been pushing myself a lot during university for the past three years and I tend to not know when to stop working. While this let me produce work I’m confident in, I want to relax before starting again. I’m planning to move to London and hope to find work assisting while also continuing this series. I’ve just bought a load of books around the subject and have been starting to work through those (while also on the beach).