• Eli Regan

Alicia Bruce by her portrait of SNP MP Mhairi Black from '209 Women'

Alicia Bruce is an Edinburgh based award-winning socially engaged photographer and Photography educator. Her work has been widely published including in The Times, BBC News, The Scotsman and STV News. Alicia’s work is also part of the collections at National Galleries of Scotland and the RSA.

Passionate about social change, Alicia’s determined to portray the people in her photographs as mutual collaborators. Alicia’s photographic campaign ‘Violence Unseen’ captured Shadow Home Secretary and Labour MP Diane Abbott’s experience of relentless racist trolling and Abbott’s stoic and calm strength.

Alicia runs Portobello Photo School offering practical support and engaging students enthusiastically in her love of Photography.

Her portrait of SNP MP Mhairi Black (the youngest in Parliament) - whose rousing speeches about social justice have gone vira - was recently part of the 209 Women MP exhibition and book.

What first attracted to you to Photography and how did that journey unfold into your many projects, portraits and commissions?

Fatou Baldeh, FGM Campaigner from the campaign 'Violence Unseen' Commissioned by Zero Tolerance by Alicia Bruce

The darkroom was what first got me hooked on photography - a friend taught me to print and the excitement of seeing the image appear in the developer led to a change in life direction. I went to Aberdeen College to do an HND then on to Edinburgh Napier to do a degree in Photography and Film. I worked long hours out with college and university in order to fund my studies and pay for accommodation so it was never an easy path but luckily, I now get to work predominantly in photography and photo education. It was never a straight path but on the way I’ve met some supportive people and organisations who have enabled me in sharing the campaigns I care about.

Why do you think it's important to collaborate with the subjects in your portraits?

Mike and Sheila Forbes from 'Menie: TRUMPED' by Alicia Bruce

Because if I’m telling someone’s story through a photograph they should be fully involved in their representation and feel empowered in how they choose to be represented. Collaboration also allows a dialogue about the process and what we want the photograph to say. Some collaborations are more in depth than others but the interaction between me and the sitter always has a degree of collaboration. For my ‘Menie: TRUMPED’ project I was collaborating with a Scottish community who were being misrepresented by the media and personally belittled by Donald Trump. I got to know them over a whole summer before I made portraits and everyone chose a painting to appropriate which they felt chimed with their situation. This process gave us the opportunity to give the same thought and attention to detail and symbolism in each portrait that a painting would have. I wanted to give them the same sort of attention.

Could you tell me more about your Violence Unseen project and why you think it's important to highlight the abuse suffered by women worldwide - for example MP Diane Abbott?

Image of Alicia Bruce's Violence Unseen - commission by Zero Tolerance. Installation shot courtesy of

Violence Unseen was a commission to mark 25 years since Zero Tolerance launched an unforgettable campaign to end men’s violence against women in Scotland. It was only two years since rape in marriage had become a criminal offence. The original campaign in 1992 was photographed by Franki Raffles, she paired empowering black and white tableaux images of women and girls with shocking text and facts which drew attention to hidden violence. That campaign had a big impact on me personally when I first saw it at school so I jumped at the chance to do the commission.

Shadow Home Secretary and Labour MP Diane Abbott with Alicia Bruce by Brian David Stevens

With Diane Abbott MP I wanted to highlight the fact she gets up and stands in Parliament, as she has done for over 30 years in spite of the highest percentage of abuse towards any MP and the sheer volume of trolling, death threats, misogyny and racism. She has amazing inner strength and outer calm and it felt right to show her, a symbol of progress and change, in front of Westminster, an old political building being held up by scaffolding. Intersectionality was important for this campaign, as was raising awareness of the different acts of violence against women and patriarchal structures which allow it. Violence against women can be portrayed as black eyes and bruises, as arguments getting out of hand but it’s often far more complex and hidden. Practices such as FGM, forced marriage and internet trolling are all forms of violence against women.

You have led many community photography workshops throughout the years - why do you think Photography naturally lends itself to social engagement?

Because photography is one of the most accessible and democratic mediums. I also genuinely love doing workshops. Photography isn’t the only element of workshops but it brings people together and allows for other discussions to happen. Two years ago I collaborated with a group of members of Crisis who had experienced homelessness in Edinburgh. We made still life images of significant and cherished objects for billboards around Edinburgh and an exhibition in the lead up to Edinburgh Festival. The photographs were made using a twin lens reflex camera and the participants learned the whole process of analogue photography, controlling available light and making symbolic, meaningful photographs. With those workshops it was important for me that the photographers would leave with additional skills and some work for their portfolios as well as feeling empowered by the whole process.

Your entry to the 209 Women MP exhibition was a portrait of Mhairi Black and you also photographed Anneliese Dodds MEP with her baby - why do you think it's important to show women in positions in power?

SNP MP Mhairi Black from '209 Women' by Alicia Bruce

We still have a very long way to go in challenging the gender inequalities in this world but I think it’s important to celebrate anyone who challenges the status quo and advocates for human rights. I also think it’s important to show women, and all individuals as themselves and not trying to fit a mould which was set up by and for another gender, people should be represented as themselves. Mhairi Black is also the youngest MP, she’s outspoken, unashamedly herself and unflinching and, for me, really breaks the traditional mould of ‘old school’ politics.

MEP Anneliese Dodds at the European Parliament with her baby

I’ve known Anneliese for a very long time and she also breaks the mould of political stereotypes with her compassion and dedication to her constituents (which both these women have). She brought Isabella to the European Parliament as she was breastfeeding on demand and was determined to fight Brexit. These roles don’t have maternity leave in place so women are forced to choose between politics and motherhood or doing both. The systems have been set up by men and they’re archaic. I have so much admiration for Anneliese, the moment of her pushing the pram past Churchill’s cut-out with her travellers back-pack straight into the parliament to fight Brexit felt very symbolic of a sea change. I also had my baby with me that week. Jo Cox was murdered less than two weeks after I took those pictures so I didn’t show the images I’d made for a very long time.

Can you tell me more about East Lothian community commissions?

I’m working on a couple of photographic commissions for East Lothian community hospital with one of the main bodies of work destined for the palliative care ward. The images are a tribute to an orchard on one of the old hospital sites. The buildings are protected but the orchard isn’t so it felt right to pay tribute to this. A different element of the work will also be installed at the entrance to the Mental Health Outpatients Department. The hope is that the work installed will help provide some respite for the patients, staff and visitors. Thoughtfully made and installed artwork in hospitals has been proven to reduce stress. This work is being made as part of a wider arts programme with several artists making work for the new building.

158 views0 comments
  • Eli Regan

Rachel Brewster-Wright

Rachel Brewster-Wright is a whirlwind one-woman photography practitioner based in Liverpool and she trades as Little Vintage Photography.

A self-described analogue adventurer, Rachel is passionate about old cameras and old processes. She also recognises the value in digital and the intersection where old and new photography can meet.

She is one third of the Sunny 16 Podcast discussing vintage photography in a digital way. Rachel uses her many film processes to produce bespoke wedding photography. Rachel is a workshop facilitator and her Peace of Mind project – cyanotypes produced in collaboration with a variety of young people including those undergoing dialysis at hospital is part of the Yoko Ono and John Lennon exhibition – Double Fantasy housed at Museum of Liverpool.

What first drew you to Photography and in particular analogue photography?

Beth - Blessings Way by Rachel Brewster-Wright (Little Vintage Photography)

I made my first photograph when I was about 3 I think. It was entirely my Dad’s fault! He learnt the trade working in the RAF and pretty much as soon as I could walk, talk and show interest in things, he showed me how to make a pinhole camera and we took photos with it. I remember us using the box bedroom at home and the attic as makeshift darkrooms & watching the prints appear. It was completely magical then, and it still is now.

I did my A-Level in Photography at art college and loved the peace and limitless time and opportunities to experiment that the darkroom seemed to offer. I also appreciated the fact that it levelled the playing field. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t afford the best kit, you could still create interesting images that could stand alongside anyone else’s work. This was the late 90’s and it was just as the digital photographic age was dawning.

After going to university and several years running the technical department and teaching in higher education I got to the end of my 20’s and I lost my Mum and my job. It may be a cliché but these two major events for me, really were the catalyst that led to me picking up photography again. I bought myself my first digital camera for my 30th birthday and set about documenting everything and anything I could. I was terrified of missing a single moment.

I took a few days off to go to Scotland to try and deal with my grief and I came back with thousands of photos. Two months later, they were still sitting on my computer hard-drive and I hadn’t looked at a single image. That was when I knew something had to change and I needed to make a shift. I sat down with a notebook and pen and looked at my life. It took me all day and well into the night, but I remember going to bed bursting with excitement over my realisation that I was going back to analogue photography and was going to set up my own vintage photography business - Little Vintage Photography.

I knew how powerful it could be to slow down and shoot more mindfully and was conscious of wanting to make a move away from the disposable, throw away and consumable and towards the physical, tactile, magical processes that analogue provided. I wanted to use analogue cameras and processes to provide a different, more connected experience and with the aim of sharing that excitement and curiosity with others too.

Can you tell me a bit more about the Peace of Mind exhibition hosted at the Museum of Liverpool and what your role was as facilitator?

Cyanotypes and Bookmarks by Rachel Brewster-Wright (Little Vintage Photography)

Being asked to work on the Peace of Mind project by Dot Art and the Museum of Liverpool was such an honour. It forms part of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy exhibition and is the first thing you see as you arrive at the top of the staircase in the Museum of Liverpool. It’s part of the permanent display in the ‘Skylight Gallery’ until the exhibition ends in November 2019. I ran a series of cyanotype sunprint & pinhole viewer workshops with groups of young people in the Merseyside region, based around the idea of Peace. I started with a quote from Yoko Ono about love and simplicity and wanted to show how accessible photography can actually be, using simple processes and introducing a younger generation to the idea that you can create really unique work without expensive equipment, using just daylight, chemistry, water, basic materials and imagination.

Some of the groups I worked with on the project had limited opportunities to enjoy activities that others were able to, as they were patients at the local children’s hospital and undergoing dialysis treatment. This was a way to bring creativity and a bit of magic and enjoyment to them as I helped them create photogram sunprints using a lamp and they were able to build and use their pinhole viewers without leaving their treatment room. It also gave them a way of learning about the process and contributing to the final composite images which I turned into digital negatives and used to create a final set of 10 pieces, each of which had elements that had been created by the groups during the workshops. These are the final prints that now form part of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Double Fantasy exhibition.

Why do you think it's important to make Photography more accessible?

Print by Rachel Brewster-Wright (Little Vintage Photography)

The more accessible something is, the more we’re able to level that playing field. Photography is such a wonderful tool for allowing absolutely anyone the opportunity to tell their story. Billions of people are now able to use their phones to capture the world around them visually in such quality that it’s astounding. I use both digital and analogue photography in my work and I think it’s just incredible that we have so many options today! It’s a wonderful time to work in photography because although in some ways it is more challenging than ever before to stand out, deal with the data we produce, or create a career through it, in other ways, we have the opportunity to utilise not only digital tools and techniques, but if we choose to, we can also embrace the whole plethora of analogue processes that were invented over 200 years ago. Within that breadth of options, there really is something for everyone and it means that regardless of any demographic, economic and social boundaries we may face, we can all still create, we can all still have a voice.

I am particularly passionate about growing the movement which champions the achievements of women and want to encourage a greater balance of female voices in the world.

I believe that analogue photography is the perfect way of introducing more women and girls to the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in an engaging way, as it combines them all, with the outcome being artistic, creative output.

One of my favourite moments ever, was being asked by a seven year old girl in one of my ‘Analogue Adventurer’ workshops, whether I was a scientist or an artist and being able to show her that I was both. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you have to “see it to be it”, and that the more women and girls are seen to be working and involved in non-traditional gender roles, the more readily others will be able to visualise themselves in, and contribute awesome things to, these industries too.

You co-host the Sunny 16 podcast about film photography - do you think digital (podcast) can advance the cause of film photography to a wider audience?

Little Vintage Adventurer Kit

Yes, absolutely! I’ve been co-hosting the Sunny 16 Podcast for over 2 years now and it has opened up doors, conversations and friendships that I never would have had otherwise, making my life all the richer for it. Every month we get messages from listeners saying they are new to the podcast and/or film photography, or else it has encouraged them to come back to analogue after years away. With a podcast being a digital medium, it gives us the opportunity to speak to people literally all over the world, bonding over and learning new things from each other all the time.

I have found the analogue photographic community to be incredibly supportive and having all the digital platforms available to us such as podcasts or using social media can give us a way of communicating with each other and growing the conversation around the resurgence of analogue. I’m always thinking about how analogue photography is actually a ‘new’ technology to young people and how amazing that is!

I’ve been conscious from the start too, about the importance of there being more female voices both metaphorically and literally (on a podcast!), being present in the conversations we have around photography in general and specifically about analogue. It comes back to this being another way of showing that women are in the industry, have things to say and that we need to be heard. The opportunity to do this by virtue of it being a digital podcast brings that visibility to a wider audience than would be possible in other ways.

Given that you live and breathe old film processes, who are some of your favourite 19th and 20th century women photographers?

I’d have to start with Anna Atkins. Such a lot of what I do is based around the traditional cyanotype process that she’s been a huge influence for me. Other names I’d add would be Julia Margaret Cameron, Gerda Taro, Vivian Mayer, Margaret Hardman but there are honestly so many!

You regularly photograph weddings - in the past decade or so, there's been a big move to photograph these in a candid way - in what ways do you think Little Vintage Photography is part of this creative movement?

Sophie & Eoin Wedding by Rachel Brewster-Wright (Little Vintage Photography)

I absolutely love shooting Little Vintage Photography weddings! It’s such a special day to be involved with. My couples tend to be those looking for something a little alternative who value memory and legacy and who appreciate the beautiful imperfections and classic look that film gives. They are conscious of wanting to move away from the ‘perfect’ photo-shopped look and want something that shows real emotion, that captures that little bit of magic and that it is something handmade and truly unique. They would rather spend their day joyfully with their loved ones, than posing for hundreds of photographs with forced smiles, and therefore prefer to have a few truly special images of the day that capture those candid moments, than thousands of flawless files.

I tend to shoot weddings and celebrations as a hybrid photographer in order to ensure I can deliver my best work no matter the environment I find myself in, and I tailor the percentage of film vs digital, to the couple and the day itself.

I process all my black & white film by hand in my darkroom and colour at one of my favourite professional labs. Honestly, nothing beats seeing those images come out of the darkroom tank and holding them up to the light for the first time! Again, the fact that we can choose whether to scan these to create digital files or make physical prints from them in the darkroom, is just awesome. We have so much choice, for me, it’s all about using the right tool for the right job and creating the aesthetic that works for that particular couple. They care more about how the experience makes them feel than brands or shiny labels and they value the little beautifully imperfect moments and the simple things over an Instagram filtered illusion of ‘perfection’.

My aim with using vintage film cameras to capture a wedding, celebration or deliver a workshop, aside from the fact that it is a joy to work with these beautiful old cameras, is that the experience and the final images will be as unique as the people that I work with.

313 views0 comments
  • Eli Regan

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

Diana Cervantes by Roberto Rosales

Diana Cervantes is a photojournalist from Albuquerque in New Mexico who works both in news and long-term visual projects. She is part of Authority Collective – a group of womxn and non-binary photographers and film-makers reclaiming their authority and their place in the male-dominated and privilege-based film and VR/AR industries.

Diana’s image was one of 70 entries shortlisted for the National Geographic Best of Your Shot 2018 competition chosen from more than 1.2 million images.

Diana was selected to take part in the campaigning organisation’s Women Photograph workshop in New York.

Her humanity shows in her visuals and she enjoys staying with the story and really getting to know the people in her pictures. Diana’s own family were immigrants to the US, making her empathetic and passionate about telling people’s stories of migration and culture.

Diana’s work has appeared in the Alibi, The Farmington Daily Times, The Mountainview Telegraph, The Independent, The Rio Rancho Observer, The Albuquerque Journal, The Santa Fe New Mexican, Bitterroot Magazine, New Mexico Newsport, and Buzzfeed news.

What was your journey into photography and particularly photojournalism?

Skye Gullatt raises her fist during a Black Lives Matter march held in downtown Albuquerque on 22 September 2017 by Diana Cervantes

My journey into taking pictures began in Sydney, Australia. I moved out there after I finished high school. I was living in the suburb near Surry Hills in Sydney, which boasts a lot of design firms. I remember that on a cool spring day I walked down Boronia Lane, and saw designers out with their cameras, which in turn inspired me to begin documenting my time living there. I worked as a waitress to save up for my first DSLR. After I returned to New Mexico and began university here I realised I missed capturing the candid moments around me, so I decided to work at the university newspaper where I worked as a photographer for four years. By the time my senior year rolled around I had taken on the role of photo editor which I greatly enjoyed. I realised that documentary photography (or photojournalism) was truly what I felt compelled to do. I was motivated and inspired in the ability to connect with people through my camera. There is nothing more rewarding than individuals opening up their worlds to you, their pains, their joys, entrusting the essence of their journey to you is a gift I could never repay. I truly see it as such a great honour, and I find immense fulfillment in visual story telling. Currently, I am freelancing throughout New Mexico for a few local and non-local news outlets.

Can you tell me about your involvement with the Authority Collective?

The Correa family attempt to embrace through the steel bars of the Anapra border wall between the US and Mexico on Dec 10, 2017. Each family had three minutes to talk by Diana Cervantes

So, the Authority Collective is “a group of womxn, femmes, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people reclaiming their authority in the photography, film and VR/AR industries.” The mission of the collective is to “empower artists with resources and community, and to take action against systemic and individual abuses in the world of lens-based editorial, documentary and commercial visual work.” Being a woman of colour, and of course a minority I needed a place where I could feel safe and share the struggles of working in a male dominated industry, while also navigating the freelance world. I also needed a place where I knew others could relate to my hardships. The community is mostly built around communicating on the Slack app where we talk about everything from freelance work to mental health. Thus far my involvement has been mostly just engaging with artists in all walks of life, sharing work, at times encouraging a fellow photographer as they do me, and posting any opportunities or connections I may have to help someone else. It’s been a great place to meet new people but also a place where we can openly share our frustrations and openly be ourselves, and if other photographers seek to get involved feel free to look at the website ( for more information.

Please tell me about your photojournalistic works including the story of Sierra Sanders - a survivor of the Aztec High School shooting?

Adrianna, Sierra's older sister messes with her hair while they wait for their younger sister Daniella (not pictured) to get out of class to head to her counselling appointment. Ever since the shooting, Daniella has suffered from PTSD, anxiety and depression by Diana Cervantes

My photojournalistic work at the moment is still very much shifting. Currently, I am drawn to more long-form storytelling, and stories that require me to spend ample amount of time with the individual I am photographing, which was not often the case in the newsrooms I was in, mostly because we didn’t have the time or budget to do more long form storytelling.

However, in the case of Sierra Sanders I was asked by Buzzfeed to spend a full day with her.

Spending this day with her I felt we found ways of connecting, which meant being in a car together driving around her hometown doing errands, and getting a feel for what kind of music she liked because of what she played in the car. These small details are missed when you show up at an event take a few pictures and leave, with this type of storytelling you pick up more on who the person is, their likes, their dislikes and what they hold dear in their life. It also gives them a chance to ask you questions and makes it feel more of a give and take type of situation instead of me just doing all the taking. It is my hope for individuals to feel as though they can be their true selves around me, to feel comfortable, because that is where the magic of the images happens.

On top of all of that, it was beautiful to witness the resilience of Sierra and her family after enduring such a traumatizing event, how they could still laugh and dream and share happiness. Due to the shooting Sierra decided to change her major to criminal justice so she can become a police officer. She hopes to return to Aztec when she graduates from college to serve her community. The rest of the images focused on her daily life while home on break from college and being back with her family, running errands and living her life albeit carrying such a painful memory.

This is also how I approached the wild horse story I had the privilege to work on for two months entitled, “Amid Rancour, Advocates Scramble to find homes for Wild Horses,” I spent a long time with the founder, Sandy Johnson, of Placitas Wild in her car, I witnessed her cry and saw her go through rehoming 70+ horses that are like her children. I had to earn their trust and be ready to drop anything at a moment’s notice to photograph key moments and days of them throughout their journey. But that is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. It is my hope to continue to be able to tell stories like these where I am able to spend time with people, because I think it does justice to their stories, and it is in this exchange that I become a better visual composer, so that their stories are told with dignity and the respect they deserve.

Does the current political climate (Trump) give photojournalists a renewed sense of urgency in truth telling?

Sosa, seen here saying goodbye to a horse, Happy Boy, as he waited to be transported to Mustang Camp by Diana Cervantes

Definitely. 100%. I think with the whole idea of “fake news” journalists are using images now more than ever to give people what they need to make their own minds up. It is cliché to say but images are worth 1,000 words. It was the image of John Moore of the little girl crying at the border that unveiled the crisis and injustice of the separation of families. It is definitely a crucial time in our history, especially when our own president is calling us liars, and enemies of the people, when that is not so. Photographers, writers, news outlets-- are here to give people the information people need to be free and self-governing.

'A Thousand Little Faces' charts homeless children in your town of Albuquerque. The use of colour is striking and a change from some of the monochrome photo essays you do. Can you tell me a bit more about this editorial process in order to illustrate wider truths?

Ruby plays with blocks during recess at CLNKids. Children at CLNKids are allowed to be in the programme for only up to one year to allow the many children on the waiting list to have a chance of the education programme by Diana Cervantes

Of course, so, I like to work in black and white because, personally, I feel colour can be too distracting at times. However, in this case, colour seemed to be the best way to go. What else evokes child-like wonder like colour? For me, it was interesting to see the liveliness of colour in a brief moment of time where these little ones felt free, in sharp contrast to their lives in the programme. Most of them lived in shelters or in cars with their families, so I felt it was important to capture the colour and happiness of this place where they could just be kids. When it comes to the editorial process, for me, it is important to edit to photojournalistic standards, which is not to go beyond the basics because it is my job to present the moment as is, this in turn helps not impose our own thoughts or beliefs to the viewers.

Can you tell me about your involvement with Women Photograph?

Every year Women Photograph has a workshop geared towards women photographers and non-binary photographers from around the world. The workshop includes skill building sessions, panels, portfolio reviews and hostile environment training. Every year they select a number of women to attend the workshop and they also allot a travel stipend for photographers travelling from outside of New York. Last year I was one of the lucky 58 women and non-binary photographers chosen to attend. This was the extent of my involvement so far with WP, but I have to say it was an incredible opportunity that helped me grow immensely as a photographer and as a professional. If it wasn’t for WP and meeting the editor of Buzzfeed at the portfolio review I would not have had the opportunity to share Sierra’s story, so I am so grateful for WP and all they offer to help empower women and non-binary photographers. Women Photograph also offer and extensive database of freelance photographers available for hire. They also offer grants and mentorship opportunities which can be found on their website.

148 views0 comments