University: University of Wales, Newport
Statement: My work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. With my pictures I attempt to demonstrate the impact these situations have on people. By documenting their stories and perspectives I hope to provide a more personal, tangible understanding of them. I studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport graduating in 2014.
Since graduating I have published the Lingering Ghosts photobook with Italian communication research centre Fabrica, which explores how asylum seekers are affected by long periods of waiting for refugee status in the UK. The large, physically scratched portraits aim to question how our migration system treats those seeking safety, whilst highlighting the frustration and confusion that months, even years of waiting can have on individuals.
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? The first photobook that made a big impact on me was Tim Hethringtons’ Infidel. The project is about a platoon of American soldiers in Afghanistan who are based in the Korengal valley, one of the most dangerous in the country. He makes the soldiers relatable and humanises them in a way that helps you to understand their perspective on war. By combining photographs of them sleeping, their social life and in action you get a tangible sense of what it must feel like to be in their situation. I love how the book compliments the photos by including other pieces of information such as details of their tattoos and stories, making the book really engaging whilst getting across a lot more information.
Direction: Lingering Ghosts lent itself to becoming a book because of the passport themed idea behind the work. It happened very organically. As I created the first seven photoshopped portraits in 2013, I began to pair them with their country of origins’ logos. It was a method of highlighting the contrast between the lack of identity (as individuals and officially) in the UK and with their past lives in their countries of origin. From here I created a small passport themed zine, which with the help of my publisher Fabrica became the larger passport themed photobook you see today.
Considerations: At first it was uncertain whether we would create a small photobook that tried to mimic exactly how a passport looks, the amount of pages, design, size, everything, or create a larger photobook. It was even discussed whether I would hand scratch hundreds of copies of books! After completing the final 28 large hand scratched c-types it was clear the best option was a larger format photobook, so the effects of the scratching aren’t lost within a tiny book.
Interior: The book was all themed around the British passport. As Fabrica has young people from all around the globe we were able to look at some other passports for inspiration too. Passports have so many incredible details it was sometimes hard to know where to draw the line with the design so as not to overwhelm the photographs. I think the book manages to achieve a good balance overall. Enough detail and a similar format to mimic the passport whilst still giving the images space.
Something that I was especially pleased with was the introduction that Gemma Padley wrote for the book. I wanted somebody who genuinely understood the work, whilst communicating the situation of asylum seekers. She summed up the work and people in a really succinct and concise way.
Advice and Future Goals: I’d recommend people focus on what they want to achieve with work before approaching publishers or any other kind of collaborators. What do you want for your final outcome? Do your potential collaborators share a similar vision? Also knowing what aspects of a project you can afford to change and which ones you can’t, calculated compromise.
Often photographers work by themselves so it can sometimes be overwhelming when we hit creative issues, or other difficulties. If I gave myself some advice as I graduated it would be to remember you’re not alone in the industry, there are people who can help you through difficult periods.
As for the future, it’s about time I moved onto creating something new. I’m still very much interested in social issues and manipulating images but undecided on a topic. Let see what happens in 2017.