University: University of South Wales
Artist Statement: Urban Evolution focuses on how the life and architecture of the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate in London has evolved over its lifetime. A Post-war brutalist social housing estate, designed by renowned London Borough of Camden architect, Neave Brown.
The Project has been produced with the intentions of publication and is already self published as a book dummy. The images were produced with a range of photographic mediums that represent the evolving ways that architecture and the built environment is now viewed. The book also includes a conversation with contemporary architect Peter Barber that provides a critical overview of the estate and current housing situation.
Presented bellow the image is a soundscape recorded on multiple visits to Rowley Way. It is a collage of sounds that help imagine what life is like within the estate. The peacefulness juxtaposed with the sounds of constant activity within the community is one factor that makes it a truly unique location.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? Having completed an FdA in Photography at Llandrillo College I went on to study for a BA (Hons) in Photography at the University of South Wales, Cardiff, entering the second year and graduated in July this year (2019).
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I think one of the standout moments was having the opportunity to meet and listen to some of the leading photographers in the country. Listening to how they approach their work, how they have progressed and viewing their work was really inspiring, I think it’s one of the best ways anyone can learn about photography. Another is being one of a few students who won the Reginald Salisbury Travel Award 2019. This award provided funding for the whole of my final year project. It gives you great confidence winning an award like this, and knowing that others can see the potential and are impressed with what you are doing. I think the final stand out moment would be the success of our graduation show. I learnt a lot about the process involved in curating, from initial ideas through to the installation. Our graduation show publication ‘Wave” took most of the year to experiment, develop and produce and we’re very proud of it!
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? My work always sits within architectural photography. I was lucky enough to find the genre of photography that I have a real passion for whilst studying for my Foundation Degree. Since then I have been honing my skills and experimenting within this genre. The goal is to work commercially in the architectural and interior industry whilst also carrying out my own research projects around architecture and the built environment, with some projects also fitting within documentary photography too.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I am very interested in the way that certain buildings function, their context and the experiences people have within spaces. Traditionally architectural photography didn't really include people due to longer exposure times needed or they would cause a distraction to certain photographic and architectural styles. Yet with later principles such as ‘form follows function’, and more contemporary designs, my approach is to include people in my work as much as possible.
Tell us more about the Reginald Salisbury Travel Award 2019. How did you go about submitting and how did it benefit your work? The Reginald Salisbury Travel Award is an annual award drawn from a donation by the Salisbury family of Newport. It assists students studying Photography at The University of Wales to develop or complete projects that have some element of travel associated to them, either nationally or internationally.
To be in contention you must have submitted a project proposal and a budget breakdown of what the funding would go towards. All applications are then reviewed by a panel of university lecturers from a number of photographic courses. The funding supported my travel to London on several trips along with the purchase of 120 film for the Mamiya 7 and the printing and binding of the photobook for this project Urban Evolution. It was great to have received the award, as the project may not have been feasible without it and enabled me to focus on the key parts of my project without having to think too much about the financial costs. Include the award alongside other photographic achievements/experience so far is a bonus too.
How do you plan to undertake commercial work within the architectural and interior industry? At the moment I’m trying to get as much work and experience as possible and focus on the kind of architecture and interior design that I want to specialise in for instance, contemporary sustainable, residential, social and commercial architecture, I also enjoy photographing the carefully curated spaces within galleries and exhibition spaces. An architectural movement that I am very passion about is modernist period design, so to have the opportunity to photograph such designs from this era would be a great accomplishment for me. I developed a number of contacts in the industry whilst at USW which is great, but these days it’s also about the personal drive and desire to keep progressing and being as active and visible as possible. From now on I’m hoping to continue to work with the great organisations and creatives I know already, whilst searching and networking to meet new people that I can work with. Assisting abroad is also something that I’m exploring for the near future as I believe it would be a great step forward and the right time to do it.
Tell us about some of the photographers who influence your work, as well as any authors that stand out to you. Iwan Baan is definitely a big influence for me. I have researched a lot into his work for essays over recent years, especially regarding his project on Torre David in Caracas. His architectural photography has a unique style adapted from his studies in documentary photography which has now broken into the commercial world. Through studying his practice it has helped me work out what sort of photographer I want to be and how I wish to work. The way in which he photographs the environment, people and context or his subjects inspired the way I work today. Another architectural photographer I find interesting is Edmund Sumner. His work shows the importance of understanding and researching into the subject or even the architect too. His images are very sensitive and create a great sense of being there with natural environmental shots similar to that of Iwan Baan. The author of Mastery, Robert Greene comes to mind. I love to read books that are educational or discuss psychology and personal development and this one really stood out for me. I read it a number of years ago and it changed the way I viewed myself as a creative and going into the professional world.
How do you know when a location is the right one to include a portrait? Do you know your sitters? I think once you understand the intentions of the architect, what they aim to achieve and the context of the building, you then have a better understanding of how to present the building and whether people or portraits should be included. I don't preplan portrait shoots for locations, It’s more about capturing the natural life that functions within and around the building that I aim to capture. For Urban Evolution I included a portrait within one of the residents living rooms carefully captured to show that each resident has made the repetitive spaces their own and catered for their specific needs.
What hurdles have you come up against when making this work? Something that was a little tricky to begin with was figuring out where to go with the project, Brutalism is such a broad subject, so I had to figure out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to produce the work. Did I want the project to have a political agenda, the history of social housing with the ‘right to buy’ scheme by Margaret Thatcher or our current housing shortage for example. Or did I want to create some kind of Brutalist typological project. After visiting numerous locations I decided to focus on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate. This Brutalist estate really caught my interest, so I began photographing what is still a thriving social housing estate and the community within it. Photographing the residents of the estate was another hurdle I faced early on. It took a while to work out how best to approach and communicate with the residents to gain their trust, a photographers skill that I quickly developed. Towards the end of the project I was invited into some of the residents flats which is what I wanted right from the start and an absolute privilege to be inside these iconic and historic interior spaces.
How did you decide a book was the right outcome for this body of work? To be honest, I had it in my mind that I wanted this work to be in book form quite early on. I knew that my subject would work well as a publication and I really wanted to gain experience in designing my own photobook and collaborating with other creatives to do that. It wasn't until my project truly came together that I started to think about how the book would actually be produced, and what it would look like. I think the different mediums in which I produced the work and the varying subjects work well as a sequence, and there are images that work similar to establishing shots that I think work best in book form.
You've included a sound piece with these images on your website. How do you think this complements the images? How do you also see a photobook, images, and sound working as a whole? Are all three elements equally as important? Well one of the first things I noticed when I visited the Ainsworth Estate and its kilometre long footpath, Rowley Way, was its peacefulness. Although located in Camden next to a busy main railway line, I was amazed by its calmness complemented by the sound of rattling pots and pans from the kitchens, people talking on their balconies and children playing on the footpath. I wanted to experiment with these sounds to provide another dimension to help others to imagine what it’s like to be on the estate. The book was definitely the main focus for me, but I wanted to also experiment with sound and capture the concentration of sounds that I experienced, rather than the usual expected background noise of the city. This is what makes the Ainsworth Estate so unique due to the shape and structure designed by architect Neave Brown.
What are your future plans? Personal projects are something that I love doing so hopefully I can always find time for these with the goal of producing more photobooks as for me it’s such a satisfying and rewarding process. As previously mentioned I’m also keeping my eyes peeled for any opportunity to work or assist a photographer abroad and to travel a little, it would be an amazing experience to search for and photograph amazing locations and iconic architecture from around the world. Looking back at the past few years of education experimenting with photobooks (some hand sewn), analogue photography, collaborations, video productions and commissions I'm just really excited to keep developing these skills, keep experimenting and pursuing what I love to do and I'm excited to see where it takes me.