Katie Mordan

South West Graduate Photography Prize 2017 shortlisted photographer

University: University of Gloucestershire

Graduation: 2017

Websitewww.katiemordan.com

 From the series  Planted

From the series Planted

What and where did you study? Describe your university experience. I went to the University of Gloucestershire and studied BA (Hons) Editorial and Advertising Photography.

Right from the very beginning, we were encouraged consider our own personal portfolio and future direction alongside expanding our creative visual thinking. 

In my second year, I continued expanding my knowledge and finally found my direction with a chosen specialisation; contemporary landscape photography. One of the major strengths of the second year on our course was the way our briefs were set. We might be set one with very short turnaround time whilst others were longer. There is a certain skillset needed to handle these if you want to do so at a high quality, and it is also a reflection of the reality of the industry - I am pleased it was a skill we were encouraged to develop.  In my third year, I was able to dedicate a significant proportion of my time creating a large base of photographic work, a strong portfolio and a photobook for Planted.

I really enjoyed my university experience, and the way the course was so well designed to lead through from the first term in first year to the last term in third year. There were so many opportunities to grow as a photographer which helped build my professional confidence and, as the course invites a wide range of speakers, I left with a wealth of invaluable knowledge and advice that came direct from the industry.

 From the series  Planted

From the series Planted

How would you describe the work you make? What are the typical themes and ideas you like to explore? I would describe myself as a documentary/contemporary landscape photographer and am interested in both the urban and the rural environment. My main interests when discovering narratives is how we, as humans, can create an impact and can leave an impact without necessarily having to be in touch with it constantly. I find our physical landscape fascinating – from the introduction of planting, in Planted, to the abandoned remains of my series RAF Davidstow. There are so many interesting stories and relationships to explore. My images rarely include people as I want to focus on our impact.  

As you were shortlisted for this years South West Graduate Photography Prize, can you share one piece of advice to new graduates? I was amazed and delighted to have been shortlisted for the SWGPP 2017 run by Fotonow CIC. One piece of advice I would give to any new graduate is to research and enter these quality competitions. I know I will be continuing to do so. You have no idea what the outcome might be. 

 From the series  Planted

From the series Planted

Tell us about your shortlisted series. Why did you choose the title Planted? My shortlisted series was Planted – a series documenting the landscape architecture in the town of Cheltenham, the town I lived in for three years throughout my university degree. I choose the title Planted because I wanted to sum up what my whole narrative discovery is about: nature being introduced into the built environment. Every single image in my series contains this element; whether ultimately it is now overgrown from the lack of human attention or it remains controlled though human interaction. 

What initially motivated you to document the human impact on nature in Cheltenham? I am originally from Cornwall and grew up in a small coastal town, known for its tourism and fishing, and surrounded by fields and cliffs - where the natural environment is in the most natural form it can be. When I moved to this large town in Gloucestershire, I started to notice the introduction of nature into the urban environment and how the landscape architecture was forming a visual picture that people call ‘Cheltenham’: from the famous parks like Pittville, to the hedges which provide a more intimate space for housing and on the busy bustling Cheltenham roads. As my discovery continued, I started to notice mini stories with reasons for each planted piece and this background motivated me to photograph this series.

 From the series  Planted

From the series Planted

Looking back at your images, what interests you most about the juxtaposition of nature and the man made environment? The differences are definitely what interest me the most. How you can walk from the north to the south of a town, or simply one street to the next and you can discover new and creative explorations of the same thing. I can photograph for 5 minutes and have already found many different visual designs; one image may be vibrant and busy and the next could be minimalist. Every ‘piece’ tells a different story; how we as humans choose to impact our environment differently. 

What equipment did you use to make Planted, and why? I chose to photograph my project digitally as I wanted to keep the visual aesthetic as real as possible.   

Who visually influences your work? I’ve found huge inspiration through Another Place Press, a photobook publication company, and all their artists shared on their blog: Another Place Magazine. To name a few: Iain Sarjeant, Dan Wood, Michele Vittori, Mark Power, Darren Baldwin and Fred Guillaud.

 From the series  Planted

From the series Planted

How do you think being shortlisted for this years South West Graduate Photography Prize will benefit your career? Did the exhibition go well? The experience of exhibiting my own work is always an amazing feeling and I am immensely grateful to Fotonow CIC for giving me this opportunity through the SWGPP and to all the other shortlisted finalists for making it such an enjoyable experience.  Exhibitions enable you to network and get feedback on your work and to see it through others eyes; this helps you to take your projects forward as well as generate new ideas – invaluable experience and support for someone at the start of their career.