University: De Montfort University and Sussex University
Graduation: 2013 and 2015
Genre: Fine Art
Artist Statement: I consider these photographs as an expression of the every day and in many ways as visual poems. As I enjoy making the 'unassuming' appear beautiful, my motivation is to create images from as little as my immediate environment and from those around me. It is this simple approach to my photography that I believe allows them, together with the subjects themselves, time to breathe in the moment.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I attended De Montfort University in Leicester, graduating in 2013. I studied for a BA in Photography and Video at De Montfort University in Leicester, I then went on to study and graduate from my MA in Art History and Museum Curating with Photography in 2015.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Above all, I think falling in love with film photography. When I first started university I was so anti-analogue to the point where I stubbornly decided not to complete two of my first year modules around this subject, resulting in two 0%'s for proving zero work, both photographic and sketchbook related. I recovered from that mistake of mine and decided in the summer of 2012, before my third year, that I would shoot one roll of film, and that if it was well exposed then I could finally call myself a photographer. Luckily for me, they were.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? This is a difficult question because I realise that as an artist you aren't always the best at being objective about your whole body of work when it comes to its categorisation. I think as a whole I would refer to my work as fine art photography, as most of them are observations on light, people and landscape - but also, I'd say, very aesthetically motivated.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I'm always interested in finding new ways to photograph trees. This seems to be a predominant feature throughout my photographs, including my more recent urban studies. I tend to find things more interesting when there is some form of nature involved, especially when there is a particular symbiosis between both the urban and natural environment. I find taking photographs of my friends and family very enjoyable and I used to be far more engaged in portraits in university. But I seemed to have drifted to more of an absence of man in my photography lately.
Can you name some photographers who influenced this body of work? No one in particular, I have to say. This is more of a collection of images I have taken over the last few years or so, which I thought went well together in terms of their subject matter. I maintain an interest in several pivotal photographers and artists that I came in contact with in university, which I imagine have buried themselves deep in the soil of my subconscious. Off the top of my head these include: Maya Deren, Emmet Gowin, Ansel Adams & Awoiska van der Molen. I think that if anything holds these four together it is what they taught me about both structure and texture of an image.
What do you enjoy about photographing your everyday and your familiar surroundings? I talk a lot to friends of mine about a 'change of focus', and it's become a little obsession of mine. There have been moments in my relatively short life that I've experienced a fairly transformative time period all because of a shift in how I look or think about something. I think that these small moments have the potential to be quite profound if you allow them to, and I suppose my interest in photographing the everyday and familiar is way of both allowing myself to be exposed to that experience, while hopefully bringing that experience to other people. I also enjoy manipulating my immediate surroundings by what is easily available to me, and this tends to reveal itself in a study of shadows.
What initially encouraged you to study photography and video? Can you tell us what the video aspect of the course included. This is an interesting question. Photography was never around me as a child. I didn't grow up with it nor did I even study art at school. I would say I was always a creative and imaginative person, but I generally expressed this through studying drama. Then, a friend who was planning on replacing drama at A Level with photography, said I should do the same. It was a new course and I thought, why not? I learnt early on that I had a keen eye for composition and this eventually lead to my obsession with it as an art form. This then lead to an interest in moving image when I was studying Art & Design in Hereford. I used to make my own music videos which taught me early on about video editing. I imagine this appealed to both my dramatic background as well as my interest in creating images. The video aspect of my course eventually guided me towards creating short films and then making music videos professionally, which is what I do now. Both of these mediums were used early on as a means for self exploration and self-portraiture, but there's been an interesting shift over the last four years, introspectively speaking, to a focus on how I see, rather how I am seen.
Why is it important for you to use your phone to make these images? Do you think using a small, handheld camera would make you work differently? My reason for using a phone to take images is simply connivence. I usually shoot on medium format (I have both a Bronica and a Rolleiflex) and this can be, although a beautifully calming and meditative process, also fairly cumbersome. I often have my phone with me and it means I can experiment a little more easily when I'm walking past a shadow in the street. Funnily enough, I don't find my working process to be much different depending on the camera anymore. Having taken pictures almost exclusively on 120mm film for the last three or so years, it slows your process down completely to the point where you simply don't consider taking multiple shots for either reference or different exposures. It teaches you to trust your gut and your eye and stops you having to rely so much on the camera to do what you want it to do, rather than allowing the camera to capture what it is you want to make. This is a process I replicate now with every camera I use, no matter what form they take.
Can you tell us about some of your writing on photography? I had originally planned on studying my masters in Photographic History at De Montfort University, a year after graduating from the Photography course there, but circumstances instead lead me to the south coast. I chose instead to use the degree at Sussex University in Art History, Museum Curating and Photography, to further my interest in the history of Photography, which culminated in a study of pornographic images for my dissertation. My study regarded a point in history for photography and the technology surrounding the lowering of shutter speed in the late 19th century, with a subsequent change in political reform which made homosexuality in Britain illegal for the first time - a law which was overturned in 1967, making it 50 years this year since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. As these two points converged in a relatively short period, it gave rise to some very interesting portraits that were made within a time that would have regarded the owner as a criminal. I am, as of now, reviewing and editing this work in the hope of it being published some time this year.
Do you think you will continue to take photographs and make new work alongside your writing? I find writing to be just as compulsive for me as photography, so I think it only natural that I would continue to do both alongside each other. Text in prose or poetry can flow across genre's quite flawlessly I find, especially when conducted in a poetic way. I found in my MA that I also enjoyed the creative element in academic writing that lends itself to storytelling, in the way that you link-in seemingly opposing events or situations via your subject and research. As of yet I've not tried to pair academic writing with photographic work that I've taken myself, but this is something I am hoping to start, and enjoy, once I begin my PhD in the Autumn of 2018.
What your future plans are? My future plans as of now are to complete my PhD in Fine Art in London, and to pursue my interest in photography through a variety of different mediums. Although I decided after my masters that I no longer wanted to be a curator, what it did teach me and give me a foundation in was both learning to look at my work from a very different perspective, and realising how much I enjoyed to write. I'm hoping that since my masters degree was solely dependant on writing, that a practice-led PhD will be a cool medium in terms of combining these two interests together.