University: De Montfort University
Artist Statement: More Than Just a Sport is a documentary piece shot on 35mm film looking into the sport Lacrosse and playing on the notion of gender. With gender being such a broad spectrum, but there still being huge stereotypes surrounding it – I wanted my work to portray these powerful women that are breaking down gender boundaries such as ‘women cannot do sport’. The project aims to empower these women and show the world that women can do as much as men can. Furthermore, with Lacrosse being so unrepresented in all aspects I wanted this project to inform and promote the sport and show how important being part of a team is.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Last year I did a project on English traditions in the countryside, this was something so completely out of my comfort zone (as a vegetarian) and something I never saw myself doing. I really enjoyed making this work and exploring the countryside that I live in. That project was a stepping stone to me wanting to work in documentary so believe it was important in my development as a photographer.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I think my photographs fall under a number of different categories, but mainly documentary.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? In previous years I found myself exploring the culture around me and the different lifestyles that people have. My work has now moved more towards empowering women and questioning gender roles. More Than Just a Sport opened a door for me to explore how women are seen in sport and in art, and it encouraged me to go against these ‘norms’ for women and show them how they are.
Who or what inspired you to make this series? I was going through a rough patch and my lacrosse team really helped me, I started to realise how important they are and I wanted to celebrate this and educate people on the sport. It just started me shooting at games every now and again but really progressed into the series.
How did the idea for More Than Just a Sport arise? I think I was just inspired and empowered by the people around me – as previously mentioned, they really helped me out of a rough patch so doing my biggest project on them seemed to fit. The name came from a hashtag that is often used in regards to the sport, and I believe that it is hugely relevant to why I made the project.
Have you got any advice for somebody about to embark on a degree in photography? Just keep at it! I dropped out of one university and went to another one and it was the best decision I ever made and I really found myself at De Montfort University. It’s a very hard degree but definitely worth it. Really take advantage of facilities, kit you can borrow and the fact you constantly have a system of people to critique your work.
How has this series of work progressed throughout your final university year? It initially started with me just shooting the people around me, but once I saw the photos from lacrosse had some substance I decided to solely focus on that. As I kept shooting I found that these women do not fit with the gender stereotypes that are so often drilled into our heads. I wanted to play on this and photograph them not looking like ‘girly girls’, and show a group of women that play sports and are good at it.
Why did you decide to use 35mm black and white film to make this work? Are your final images hand printed? I love film and have always found myself drawn to it in my work. I believe there’s a certain magic to not knowing fully how the photographs are going to come out and you have freedom in how you want them to look. With digital you can be shooting and shooting mindlessly, but film I believe you take more time on each photo – thinking about what you want. For me, this makes working on film a lot more personal and meaningful because of the time spent on it. As the project is personal to me, I believe using film complimented it. Although I shot on film I scanned the negatives in for the freedom of editing and enlarging.
What made you turn More Than Just a Sport into a photobook? I believe there is so much power in a photobook, and you can get really creative with it. Photobooks are a way to display your work when not on a gallery wall and a way to show potential clients what you can do. I feel like when a project is finished that making it into a book is a way of sealing it and finishing it professionally. I get so inspired by photobooks from all different photographers and hope one day my work will go on to inspire others, so I started making photobooks early on.
What would you like your viewer to learn from your work? I want my viewer to be able to question gender and feel empowered by the women in the photographs whilst also learning and seeing the kind of sport that Lacrosse is. I did the project to educate people on the sport as it is very under represented not only in the art world, but the sporting world too yet is a very interesting and fun sport which deserves recognition.
What are your plans as a new graduate? At the minute I’m currently saving to travel - I have plans to volunteer in Africa in September with a project that helps empower women so it will go hand in hand with the work I want to do. Then I just want to get out there and see the world - I believe I need to see the world to know what I want to shoot in life as currently I have a very restricted view of the world. My aim is to get some photojournalism experience with a magazine or newspaper after this and see where the world takes me!