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  • Eli Regan

Sandra Harper

Sandra Harper is an Anglo-Caribbean photographer based in Brighton. In 2016, she was a RPS International Exhibition finalist. Sandra balances working on IT contracts with her self-funded Photography projects that have seen travel internationally to Bosnia, Mexico, Thailand and Ireland.


Sandra’s work is sensitive and compassionate and tackles difficult subjects such as her parents’ ageing, illness and eventually her Dad’s passing. Whatever subject she tackles, she eschews stereotypes and gets to heart of the matter. Sandra would love to do more extensive photographic work exploring her Caribbean background in homage to her Mum and Dad.


Could you tell me a bit more about the Photojournalism Workshop that you did in Mexico and what you learnt during it?


Danielle by Sandra Harper

It was a Foundry Workshop - they run a workshop every year somewhere around the world. Previously I have done two (Thailand and Bosnia) and then I did the one in Mexico. The reality of working prevents me from going every year.

During the workshop I was inspired by a photojournalist and tutor there called Adriana Zehbrauskas. She had done some amazing work on Afro-Mexicans and I felt really energized by this idea.


During my time in Mexico I did two stories – one on the Mexico City Roller Derby and the other was after talking with Adriana. I started searching on Facebook for potential Afro-Mexicans to be in my project. It was then that I found Danielle – a Cameroonian. Danielle works in a restaurant in Mexico City, starting at the crack of dawn and often working into the night til 1 or 2. She was very welcoming and I ate some wonderful there – fried cactus, plantain and peanuts – real fusion food: a bit like my project. She had wanted to emigrate to Canada but ended up in back in Mexico City amid a thriving community of Cameroonians.

I presented an edited story with 10 images at the end of the workshop and enjoyed hearing about everyone’s work on the workshop.


Can you tell me about your first camera and your journey into Photography?


Restaurante Africano by Sandra Harper

It was over 10 years ago when I was living in Brussels. I bought a film camera – a Pentax K-1000 from a local second-hand shop. I also found a Photography workshop by a great photographer called Michael Chia. He taught black and white Photography and dark-room techniques. As a group we put on an exhibition at a Flemish community centre. I sold one of my images to my French tutor – I put it down to beginner’s luck!


Can you tell me how you started the work on the Irish Traveller community?

It was during another workshop (yes, seemingly, I do a lot of workshops!) run by a great photographer and friend who’s from Boston but has lived in Ireland for over a decade. He knows a few Irish Traveller communities and has been taking their portraits for many years. The images produced were a result of two trips over a year. I visited horse fairs and gatherings. It’s awful how some people’s perceptions of the traveler community are the ‘Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ documentaries. These feed into the prejudice and stereotypes of Travellers and it was something I consciously avoided.


Hestelle - The Carer's Story is very personal work on your Mum caring for your Dad who had dementia and cancer. Did you find it hard to make the work?


Hestelle - The Carer's Story - by Sandra Harper

My priority was always the welfare of my parents before the camera. If my Dad needed help or my Mum – I was just there for them. My parents came from the Caribbean to the UK over 50 years ago to work and raise a family. To witness my father’s declining health and my mother’s struggles as his primary carer was extremely hard for me. I have so much gratitude to them for their unconditional support. At times, my Mum felt isolated and ignored by the health professionals in charge of my Dad’s care. That’s why it was important for me to give voice to my Mum’s story. Photographing my Mum and Dad gave me time to prepare for the inevitable fact of my father’s passing. This is as personal as it gets.


You've travelled extensively - do you have a place that you enjoy returning to and photographing?


Danielle by Sandra Harper

I haven’t travelled as much as I’d like to. I would like to explore the Caribbean including St Vincent and the Grenadines as that’s where my parents are from. On my mother’s side, they fought the British in the 18th Century. I would like to visit Cuba as my Dad’s ancestors were slaves there. There are gaps in my family tree that I would like to fill in photographically as well as with extensive writing.


You work in IT as well as pursuing your photography - how do you balance your creativity with making a living? Do you wish you had more time for Photography?


Baptism in Brighton by Sandra Harper

I work in the IT contracting market and this allows me the flexibility to work on Photography projects in between contracts. IT pays my bills and helps me self-fund Photography projects. Do I wish I had more time for Photography? Of course I do! Sometimes I don’t get to pick up a camera for months but without the work that pays the bills, I can’t do the work I’m actually interested in. It’s all about balance.

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  • Eli Regan


Alice Cornelia

Alice Cornelia is a young Warrington artist who uses Super 8, film photography and installation processes to probe the veracity of documentary processes. A Glasgow School of Art graduate, Alice was highly commended for her work in the Warrington Open Exhibition in 2018. Alice’s practice is influenced by critics such as Martha Rosler who made her question the authenticity trope in documentary. Her exhibition ‘Back Now’ which blends documentary and fiction is currently showing at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery until 22 June 2019.


First of all, I'm a fellow Art Foundation student at Priestley College in Warrington many moons ago. How do you feel that this very experimental course informed your practice as a young artist?



Oil on photograph from series 'BLOTS' 2017, during transitional period at Glasgow School of Art in between moving into photography from painting by Alice Cornelia

When I did Foundation, I was a painter but now I work in photography, film and installation. My work transitioned a lot during my degree, and I feel Art Foundation aided and influenced my thinking throughout that time. As a young artist the course expanded my way of thinking about ‘fine art’ and what mediums and approach that really involved. This took the form of collaboration, group installations, personal installations, sculpture, textiles, illustration, photography, fashion, painting, drawing and ceramics. I wanted to create work where I was really exploring or challenging pre-conceived ideas or thoughts about artistic processes. Foundation gave me confidence and an awareness of being able to break out, take leaps and bridge new developments in different mediums. Installation was introduced to me on this course and is something I’m currently really wanting to pursue, along with re-engaging with moving image which I use to love playing around with in my spare time during high school, downloading old footage off YouTube.


Could you tell me a bit more about your trajectory - what themes you started to explore at Glasgow School of Art? Was it here that you began to blend documentary and fiction?



Installation view of 'Back Now' Super 8 converted to digital, projection, plasterboard and rice paper by Alice Cornelia

Yes, it was at the end of my 3rd year and into my final year. Previous film work and research began to raise aesthetic questions exploring mediums of social representation. I started to explore the cultural legitimacy both film and still image hold within what we recognise under the genre ‘documentary’. Aware of the dominant influence of documentary, I started to question our consumption of social narratives and cultural references within collective memory, accessibility and material reality.


This work explored the presence of moving image through installation, projection, photographs, audio and film. I began confronting their process of representation in breaking down their visual language of social landscapes through de-contextualization, reproduction, personal visuals with found footage, narrative and abstraction. This involved projected film stills, heat transferrers of footage stills, photographs, large digital prints pasted onto plasterboard and audio pieces from found footage and personal audio. Combining documentary and fiction was a way to highlight how entwined they have become. I considered digital culture, its increased media capabilities and virtual networks of moving image/images that are now understood on virtual platforms and can cause experiences to become gentrified, commodified, and disconnected. Breaking down and confronting these processes offers a point to reconsider our relationship with images and to expose how little we know about reality through images and how easily our imagination compensates. This created a dialogue between the subjective nature of images and our interpretation.


The genre of blending documentary and fiction has many proponents, for example Cristina de Middel in The Afronauts. Who are some of the photographers/artists in this field who have influenced your work?

There are a range of artists I’m looking at the moment, all varying in medium such as

Filmmakers:

Sarah Morris, Laura Heurtas Millan, John Smith, Marte Aas and David Dye – Millan and Dye in particular.

Photographers:

Pauline Hisbaq, Rebekka Deubner, Shahin Afrassiabi, Torbjorn Rodland, Irina Rozovsky, Rob Bremmner, Margaret Mitchell, Tish Murta, Colin Pantall, Tabitha Barnard

Installation artists:

Gary Hill, Tony Ousler, Michael Francois, Amy and Oliver Thomas-Irvine and Webb-Ellis.


Can you tell me about Back Now currently showing at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery and about the processes that you used to put together the exhibition - Super 8 turned to digital, photography, etc?



Installation View, 'Back Now' Warrington Museum & Art gallery, digital print on organic panama, rice paper and plasterboard, giclee photographic print by Alice Cornelia

Back Now is a collection of film and photography. Scraps and scatterings of visual information and an oscillation between found, personal and artificially conceived images and moving image. The multi-media installation comments on ‘authentic environments’ that become ‘decaying social spaces’ questioning what is real or imaginary, what is realised and what is not within these image worlds we are accumulate in everyday life.


The projected short film was filmed on Super 8, converted to digital and shot in Fife on the east coast of Scotland. Analogue moving image and photography are used as often trusted reference points and assumed authenticity. I see my films as living still images, appearing like a ‘live’ portrait of a still head. The image is endured by the conditions that created it, with constant presence of the spectacle of the figure and its multiple cuts to other moments of the same state of still - challenging the viewer’s perceived complacency. I wanted to create a loop with no beginning or end making the viewer aware that what is being viewed is a construction, inviting identification but being regularly reminded of its artifice. It also intended to expose and slow the space in between viewer and subject causing the viewer to be aware of their own presence or gaze.


Surface is important often using low cost natural and unconditioned materials such as plasterboard, rice paper, handmade paper. Often transferring, pasting or printing onto these to see how images embed, hang and sit - relieving the surface and materiality of images.


The motif of a balloon appears throughout the exhibition in various formats: as a photograph, pasted in the corner of a board and forms the shape of surface the board the short film is projected onto. The balloon acts as a desired flight from social reality. Its objectification is used as a motif evocative of memory, a dialectical image, treated like a historical object. A cliché, the balloon offers a material abstraction, its dysfunctional hyperrealist presentation in naïve shaped board and cheap craft paper undermines its representation and sets a sceptical tone. My intention was to render it surreal against the more real backdrops in the images. I wanted to create general images with recognisable visual cues and references such as balloons and backs of heads, which when put in a context of only relating to each other become de-familiarized and uncanny motifs. I wanted to convey a strange presence.


Are there writers who influence your practice?



Photographs featured in the exhibition 'Back Now' by Alice Cornelia

Martha Rosler is a writer and artist who has heavily influenced my recent work surrounding documentary with her criticism of the documentary photographer having a “social conscience of liberal sensibility”[1] and the idea that “any response to images is inevitably rooted in social knowledge.”[2] In her 1981 essay ‘in around, and after thoughts (on documentary photography), she really made me question my previous work and how we view images, the relationship between photographer and subject and how important this is.


My dissertation explored the British working class subject in documentary photography post war up until the present. It focused on the often ill informed links between the working class subject as ‘authentic’ as well as ‘real’ to articulate an ‘experience’ which turns into appropriation and commodification. In some instances experiences framed in documentary photography are articulated solely on social classification and difference. Experience is conducted on the overemphasis on social difference at the expense of recognition - figures are going to be endured by the social conditions that created them. Working classes are no more real than any other part of society, while documentation can be ‘realist but not real’.


This grey area started to filter into my studio work with additional writers interested in such image worlds and material reality such as Roland Barthes, Jean Buillard, Vilem Flusser and Luc Tymans. These writers expanded my thinking surrounding the power of images and their visual language on how we orientate ourselves in the world – a language Rosler questions and I also question in my work.


You seem to be very involved in the curatorial process of your work - did you consider presenting the work at WMAG in a myriad of ways? Have you thought about how you'll present the work in another space?



Photograph featured in 'Back Now' by Alice Cornelia

Yes, I knew I wanted a collection of visual information that presented patterns, repetitions and gaps but not a totally fixed idea of where they would go. I’ve not yet had much experience in pushing the installation side of my practice but it is something I’m super interested in and want to push. At the moment it seems it’s often site-specific - for example Warrington Museum had moveable walls which I used to break up and layer the space. I did however have in mind ‘anchor points’ such as the film and the large fabric prints, both in opposing sides of the whole space. Those pieces I felt wanted to be objects in themselves, freestanding and invading the floorspace exploring physical presence of images. The two large fabric prints came as a set with their own dialogue I wanted to push – both photographs of the same moment but subtly different, I envisioned being displayed staggered to break up the viewer’s navigation and perspective of the images.


I have thought about the work in a different space, I’m also interested in presenting work in disused spaces and I’ve visualised it in a few spots I’ve found recently. I have large series of photographs and I find the editing process difficult, so I have imagined different images on different scales a lot in the space.

[1] Martha Rosler 3 Works, in around, and after thoughts (on documentary photography) 1981 (Canada, Halifax, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 2006) pg.73


[2] Martha Rosler 3 Works, in around, and after thoughts (on documentary photography) 1981 (Canada, Halifax, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 2006) pg.82

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  • Eli Regan


Charlie Booth

Charlie Booth is a History of Art graduate and Programme Coordinator at Redeye – the North West’s most well-known Photography network.


In this interview, she tells us about her portfolio career – which also involves working for Manchester Histories and as a freelancer and in collaboration with Liz Wewiora (who is Open Eye Gallery’s Head of Engagement).


Charlie is extremely hard-working, conscientious and has a passion for photographers to grow as practitioners and enjoys seeing them do so through Lightbox and other Redeye endeavours.


Charlie has worked on Car Booty, a project with the Wewiora sisters (Liz and Helen) and they have new plans in the foreseeable future.


What first attracted you to the world of Photography?


After graduating from university I started working at the Hepworth Wakefield and South Square Centre as a Curatorial Fellow. On one of my first days I was condition-checking hundreds of framed prints by the Photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia as it was being de-installed. It was my first experience working with photography and cemented the art form as a firm favourite.


A year later I was working at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art as a freelancer and heard that Redeye, the Photography Network, who shares part of the gallery’s office, was looking for a new programme coordinator. What attracted me to the role was that it was very people focused, helping artists develop and get to where they wanted to be in a social and supportive way. I have learnt so much about photography since working at Redeye but I still count myself as a beginner. Sometimes it’s difficult not being trained as a photographer when people discuss technical elements of their work. However, every workshop and event I learn something new.


Can you tell me a bit more about your role as Programme Coordinator at Redeye?



Redeye bag (National Photography Symposium 2018) by Drew Forsyth

My role as Programme Coordinator is to manage the programme of events. The events range from practical workshops for people to develop skills, to networking events for photographers to share work and get feedback from their peers to lectures and conferences from established photographers for people to get inspiration on interesting projects.

I’m also involved in helping support our members with enquiries, advice and support. So, for example they send me emails each day that range from introducing them to other people in the industry who can help them to sending information on copyright or pricing.


You have a portfolio career – i.e. you work at Redeye and Manchester Histories as well as other freelance projects – what are the most rewarding/challenging aspects of working in this way?


Any job you do, you and the people you work with, will always expect 25% more from you. You have to spend time on say social media liking relevant things, attending openings, answering emails out of hours, reading articles, travelling to festivals etc. When you work two or three jobs that extra 25% from each job can build up to an extra day a week.


The positives of portfolio working way outweigh any negatives. I think for good mental health we need perspective and working two different day-jobs allows this time away from your network, the emails and the to-do lists to digest and reflect on what has just happened. I work for two organisations one in the history and heritage sector and one in the photography sector. Both are funded by different bodies, have different budgets, different ways of doing things and so I can cross and compare them weekly. There are so many funny and nice coincidences where I can take things I have just learnt from one job and use it in another.


I love my freelance work the most as it’s freeing and I get to collaborate with a good friend, Liz Wewiora. We first met when working together at CFCCA. Later, with her sister Helen Wewiora , Liz employed me to be their curatorial assistant at the national touring show ‘Tall Tales’. Now, we collaborate under the name Wewiora and Booth Projects mainly producing the ACE funded Northern Art Carbooty but we will have new projects announced soon.


As part of your work for Redeye you have attended many talks by photographers – are there any particular talks that stand out to you?

Yes, so many! Most recently:


- Nina Berman’s lecture at the women in focus conference in Cardiff.

- Mandy Barker’s talk as part of her CFCCA exhibition last year.

- Edgar Martin’s lecture at GRAIN’s state of photography conference.

- Rob Hornstra’s masterclass in Manchester in March 2018.

- Michal Iwanowski’s lecture as part of Epic Journeys in 2016.

- Natasha Caruana in Liverpool at FACT as part of the exhibition New Observatory in 2017.

- Mahtab Hussain in conversation with Tim Clark at the New Art Gallery Walsall

- Jem Southam at the FORMAT conference in 2017 – this lecture made me cry.


Which women/non-binary/female identifying photographers who are working at the moment do you admire?


Maryam Wahid, Natalie Wardle, Susan Derges, Sophie Gerrard, Lucy Ridges, Lottie Davies, Roxana Allison, Natasha Caruana, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Fleur Olby, Arpita Shah, Karina Lax, Verity Adriana, Joy Gregory, Jessica Fairbrother, Michelle Selway, Yan Preston, Sian Bonnell, Lasma Poisa, Lydia Goldblatt, Liz Hingley, Rachael Munro-Fawcett, Roz Doherty and Alison Baskerville.


You recently attended Format Festival – what work did you particularly engage with?



Lightbox meeting by Drew Forsyth

Sixteen, a group touring exhibition made up of tons of portraits of teenagers across the UK - it’s in the Market Hall in Derby and shows work from a broad range of photographers depicting what it is like to be sixteen today.


I also really liked Emily Graham’s project The Blindest Man that is exhibited on the ground floor of the Market Hall. Kings of England by Graeme Oxby in the BEAR coffee shop is a firm favourite. The Old Tram Shed is an incredible and unique venue this year.


I’m biased but I am really proud of the work that FORM collective pulled off in the Eagle Market this year, an independent fringe for FORMAT funded by Arts Council England. I’m biased because FORM was founded during the Lightbox course, I managed for Redeye last year, but the group of photographers mentored by Nicola Shipley have grown from strength to strength since then. They’re a great bunch of very talented photographers who this time opened it up to working with other new artists. I also think the work by the East Meets West photographers in the Eagle Market and QUAD was really strong.


Which all-female initiatives/talks are you drawn to in this industry and others?



Photographer Beth Knowles at the NPS 2018 by Drew Forsyth

Landform is a new initiative founded by the photographer Cath Stanley. In its current form it’s an Instagram account that shares the work of female landscape photographers but she also organises photo walks in the countryside. It’s a safe space for female photographers to be able to ask questions and get help with technical and conceptual elements of their work from a peer group of other photographers.


I also really admire the epic and ambitious scale of 209 Women which was exhibiting at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool recently. It must have been an administrative headache managing that many photographers and MPs in this current political climate. They had work on show from photographers at all levels which I think is important to avoid the same names all the time.


But gender imbalance isn’t just an issue for photography and I really want to mention a handful of other organisations that tackle this subject in the wider cultural sector too:


Idle Women are simply awesome – they create new and innovative projects that are focus on social justice. They’ve recently won an award for their Mud to Medicine project.


Pregnant Then Screwed (founded and run by Joeli Brearly) works ‘to end the motherhood penalty’ by offering free legal advice, a mentoring scheme and they also lobby the British government for legislative change.

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