University: University of Westminster
'A town like Sheffield assumes a kind of sinister magnificence’ - George Orwell
Sheffield is a town with its identity forged from its industrial past. This project stands as a testimony to this; an account of the defining structural elements that shape a city. In this series the pragmatic yet intimate nature of the images project the effect of the grind of industry over the city of Sheffield.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I attended the University of Westminster to study a BA in Photographic Arts. I graduated in 2015.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? One moment that comes to mind was during our second year when we held a photographic exhibition in East London. The whole process was exciting and the culmination of our private view was a great confidence booster for everyone involved. Another moment would be our final year degree show which was two solid days of working with everyone from the photography courses and a great end to an incredible 3 years of study.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I find myself drawn to documenting landscapes that I have a personal affiliation with. I have been particularly interested in exploring the landscape in the North of England which is where I am from. I recently walked the Camino de Santiago (120km) in May 2016 with my mother who is also Spanish and documented the landscapes we came across along the way.
Who are some of your favourite photographers who you think will always influence your work? Photographers I will always admire include Lee Friedlander, Lewis Baltz, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Thomas Ruff and John Davies.
How did you locate the areas of Sheffield that you photographed? Are they of any particular significance? The process of photographing the city was a mix of more organic photography; I would walk around the city for hours at a time and photograph things of visual interest. But there were also some more research based places I wanted to focus on. For example, the large ex steelworks ‘Magna’, which was once a steelworks but is now an educational centre on the outskirts of the city. This is obviously a place of importance with what I am trying to communicate with my work. Finally, in the final edit of what work should be included and what should not, was my idea to create a diverse mix of places. I've shown Kelham Island, which used to be the industrial hub of Sheffield years back, as well as showing shiny new office blocks and student housing - this highlights the history and future of Sheffield as a city.
We can see some obvious influence from New Topographics photographers in your work; who would you say visually influenced Steel City? Visually I was very interested in John Davies work, I felt his landscapes of Britain were highly influential in this project. I came across John Darwell from his Café Royal Books publications that were specific to Sheffield and used these as visual references as well. Other photographers that have shot Sheffield include Berris Connolly and Andy Brown.
Do you think your images define Sheffield's identity based upon its industrial past? My photographs do feel definitive yes, this is a link that I feel is very clear within the landscape and also something I am incredibly interested in. I feel that Sheffield is a beautiful and interesting city that has a history other than its industrial one, it’s just this one was my main focus.
Were there any cultural influences that had an impact on you when making this series? Whilst making the project I looked outside the realm of photography for ideas. I was specifically inspired by the band Pulp and frontman Jarvis Cocker; I really appreciated the way he described Sheffield as not only a local but as an outsider as well, and this resonated in my own relationship towards the city. I was listening to songs like Sheffield Sex City and radio shows from Cocker, as well as watching the pulp documentary Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets.
Is this work finished? What are you working on now? In some ways the project is finished, however, I do feel the photographic opportunities are endless. Whenever I go back to Sheffield I am always finding new areas to photograph. As mentioned earlier I photographed my pilgrimage in Spain which I hopefully see becoming a book in the future. I am also part of a collective called Topography of Modern Life. We have had two successful shows, one in London and one in Amsterdam during UNSEEN festival and we are hoping to take the show elsewhere in the UK and try to grow as a collective.