Peter Watkins

University: University of Westminster, BA Photography. Royal College of Art, MA Photography.

Graduation: 2014

S.W.,   Work in Progress  ,   2016

S.W., Work in Progress, 2016


Can you give us an overview of the work you’re creating? Have you got a working title? I’m currently working on a project that traces the former boundary of the Berlin Wall. I have been walking along its course and photographing some preparatory pictures along the way, which will hopefully form the basic framework for the new project—as such, there’s no title just yet.

Rather than being specifically tied to the history and memorialisation of the Wall itself, I’m thinking more broadly about the idea of borders and boundaries between people and political ideologies and the shifting political landscape throughout Europe and further afield now. Although I don’t think the work will approach these themes quite as directly as I have suggested here, they are nevertheless at the front of my mind whilst I’m working through the process. I’m trying at this point to follow what’s interesting me, and from there I hope to make these interests transform into work that’s more tangible.

What are some common themes or subjects that run through your work? My previous work looked at the themes of memory, the role of the family archive, exploring a shared family trauma, the vernacular, and the psychological as woven into the fabric of objects we hold onto for their connections to the past. The Unforgetting was about taking memory as a starting point—my memory, and the unobtainable memory of my family as a collective—and then reconstituting and reconstructing this memory through objects, documents, and creating fabricated situations that I guess rested somewhere on the fringes of a documentary practice, but were more metaphysically conceived of and difficult to pin down—much like the function of memory itself. 

How are you hoping for the Graduate Photographers Award to benefit your future and career as a photographer? It’s always useful to receive awards such as the Magnum Graduate Award, which offers a certain amount of structure and support. There is a certain workflow adjustment following a period of intense study, and often a bit of a void can open up with no fixed deadlines and the loss of the intensity that a peer group meeting week-in-week-out can bring. Awards like this offer an approximation of this experience, and make you work towards something that feels more concrete. I’m hoping over the course of the year to find a structure and direction for this new work, that will hopefully mark a significant departure from my previous body of work to which I dedicated the past few years. 

Who or what influences and motivates you the most when making new work? Presently I’m reading a lot of history and literature, and trying to understand more about the post-war period of German history. I’m drawing inspiration from a myriad of different sources—history books, a friends archive of Berlin Wall photographs, my Great Uncle’s own photographs and recollections of the fall of the Wall, and of course I’m looking at artists that have approached similar themes, as well as those photographers who have made works specifically about Berlin, such as Michael Schmidt’s Berlin Nach 45, and John Gossage’s Berlin In The Time Of The Wall. That said I’m trying not to look too closely at works that were made exclusively about Berlin, as I’m trying to open up the work beyond those boundaries. 

We understand that the mentorship lasts for one year; can you tell us what you’ve learnt so far and what your next steps are? Who is your mentor? I selected Max Pinckers, a relatively young photographer whose work I admire. I think the parallels between his work and mine lie in a practice that borders on the documentary, and being able to bring together a disparate subject matter into something that is cohesive, somehow exacting, but still allowing enough space for the intrigue and wonder that make work interesting to me. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to open up some space for dialogue that will benefit somehow the resulting work.