University: University of the West of England
Suburb is a series of photographs investigating the quiet, private, often impersonal spaces that make up many of our cities population. The project was born from the reaction of residents of a close in a suburban area. Their reactions are shown via the emails that accompany the images.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? There were plenty of pivotal moments for me, but one which changed the way I viewed photography and my own work was when I saw a talk given by UK Landscape photographer Jem Southam. I enjoyed the way he spoke about his work, but most importantly felt a similar connection with how he viewed the landscape.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I like to keep things simple, so I would just say Landscape.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? The majority of my work comes from ideas relating to human geography.
What was your motivation for this body of work? The project started off as something very different, I think the original idea was more architecturally based. I posted a letter to every house in a close to seek for their approval to photograph their homes in detail, from this I received the emails from some of the residents. Their reactions came as a big surprise and ended up becoming the focus and motivation of the project.
Can you talk us through any major influences you had when creating Suburb? I produced this project whilst I was in my second year at university, so I was still very much finding my voice in photography. My lecturers at the time helped guide me between the transition from the original project idea to final the work. Whilst producing the work my course leader was contacted by the police, (concerning residents privacy) and instead of shutting my project down he encouraged me to produce a reaction, which at the time was a big boost of confidence.
British Photographer John Meyers was a big influence for this work, I think you can see that in my images. I particularly liked the way he kept his angle of view at eye level, giving that feeling of almost being an intruder in the landscape.
What's your definition of suburbia and would you say your images represent this? I would define ‘Suburbia’ as any residential area that is outside of a city or town centre. I think it would be unfair to say that my images represents all suburbs, but I would say that they represent my feeling of the subject at the time. I suppose the communities reaction to my original letter made me feel angry, not only for my own rejection but also for their negative views of photography.
Do you have any theoretical influences you always turn to when making new work? When I make new work I tend to start with a clear idea of what I want to achieve. But I think that, like a lot of others you go through times when you need help or some form of reassurance that what you are making is worth while. Whenever I hit these moments I turn to a book called Land Matters by Liz Wells, it always seems to give me the answers I need at the time. I would recommend it to anyone with any interest in landscape photography.
You mentioned your idea for Suburb changed after you sent your letter seeking permission, did you find this an easy change to make? Would you say you’re always open to change when making new work? At the time, I think I found it quite hard to change especially being at university and only having a short project deadline. But it did teach me to be open to change. Now I try to let my work evolve over the time frame instead of sticking to the original idea.
What would you say is your biggest achievement since graduating? My biggest achievement so far would be receiving a grant for my current project Gloucestershire from the English Arts Council. This funding has meant that I’ve been able to produce work on a scale that I never thought was possible a year after leaving uni.
Have you got a favourite photography journal? I buy BJP every month so I’m going to have to say that.
What are your creative goals for the future? In the near future I’m finishing my current project, Gloucestershire, which will be released this summer. But after that I’m hoping to carry on with the idea of English counties either in the South West or across England.