Philosophy alumna wins photography award
Laura was both a BA and MA student at Sheffield in philosophy, making the transition into photography while she was here. Laura tells us about the prize and how she connected philosophy with photography in the interview below. The interview is also illustrated with some of her photographs from previous projects she undertook with Komarine Komdenh-Romluc, one on “Railway Cultures” and the other on “From Brooklyn and Brooklynism”.
Can you tell us more about your award, and your plans?
Yes, I just recently found out that I'd won the Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award, an annual bursary which supports photographers to undertake a narrative photography project which focuses on human stories within a political or social context. I'm going to take a series of photographs of older people in the UK, portraying something of their remarkable lives and spirits and hopefully challenging some of the ageism and assumptions people make about the older generation. I've been delighted to have received messages from over 400 people interested in being involved in the subject, all really interesting to read. I'm going to have a difficult job choosing who to photograph - there are so many amazing people. Obviously I'm going to have to wait some time before I can go ahead and take the pictures safely because of the current pandemic. When I can, I think it will be as important as ever to show the strength and resilience of so many older people in the UK.
How did you get from philosophy to photography?
When I was studying philosophy my friend taught me how to use the darkroom which was at the Student's Union. I spent many happy hours in there and fell in love with photography. I did a part-time MA in philosophy and studied a course called Professional Photography at the same time.
I'd always thought about becoming a journalist but this later changed to a desire to go into photojournalism. After some time working for a community development organisation and a few years living in Spain doing various jobs I returned to Sheffield to do the NCTJ's course in photojournalism. Following that I worked for a regional newspaper for four years. I then decided to go freelance and now work as an artist, photographer and photojournalist as well as working as a socially engaged practitioner.
Do you still read philosophy, and use it in your work?
Yes I do. My background in philosophy definitely influences the way I think and is inspiration in my work. I have worked on projects with Dr. Komarine Romdenh-Romluc from Sheffield University's philosophy department on a number of public photography projects and exhibitions and it was brilliant to combine the two subjects together and work in collaboration with communities as part of the work.
Any advice for university life?
Work hard but be kind to yourself and enjoy it. Be open-minded, listen to others, have fun.
And any top tips about Sheffield?
I guess it depends what people are interested in but I think there's something for most people so I'd say definitely explore and dig under the surface - I think there is more to the city than can appear at first glance. Friendly people, lots of different areas to the city spreading way out to the beautiful countryside, DIY nightclubs, small art spaces, hidden parks, a rich mix of music, cultures, food and influences. I love the place.
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