Interview: Brighton MA Photography ’16

Brighton is our hometown, so we always like to keep an eye on the work of the graduating students from the universities’ BA and MA courses. This year, we caught up with Martin Seeds, Gabriel Andreu and some of the other students to find out more about their upcoming exhibition and publication and to try and support their fundraising campaign. Read on and scroll down for a look at some of the work that will be on show…

Miniclick: How has it been, coming together as a group for this final exhibition?

Martin Seeds and Gabriel Andreu: Stressful, exciting, anxious and a great relief.

MC: To what extent do you help each other out through the course?

MS & GA: We have been together as a group for the past two years so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The students come from varied backgrounds so we all have something to offer each other – some have studied photography at under grad level and some have studied other fine art practices and others have little experience. In the first year we formed a reading group to explore more deeply all the theory around the course. The group was very helpful in bringing us together and to help us understand each other practice. We also have formal feedback critiques as part of the MA and we meet outside of the University to help each other technically and conceptually. Overall it is a self-directed course that helps you to continuously develop your practice on your own.

MC: It seems like the exhibition allows you to work in a number of disciplines. In addition to the photography and film making you’ve been practising, there’s also exhibition design, curation, graphic design for the brochure, etc etc. How was that?

MS & GA: The students on the course have a broad range of skill sets from graphic design to marketing and exhibition building. During the final few months we have been working hard to finalise our own work but we can draw on this expertise to help with the final show and its promotion. We have divided ourselves in groups to take care of all the different tasks that we need to create the exhibition. Georgs Avetisjans is a great graphic designer and has put together our exhibition catalogue that is looking beautiful.

MC: How are you raising funds for the exhibition and brochure?

MS & GA: We are selling prints and books from known photographers. There is also some amazing work from the current students on sale. There is a Facebook page from which you can purchase some real bargains, like a signed copy of Simon Roberts’ Pierdom book, a print by Nigal Shafran, Dougie Wallace’s Shoreditch Wild Life book and loads more.

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Check out that Facebook page here, for some good-cause-bargains and follow them on twitter here. The exhibition of the work runs from September 17th 2016 to September 23rd at the University of Brighton Grand Parade Gallery.

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In the meantime, let’s look at some of the work from this year’s graduates…

Martin Seeds

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‘Assembly’ is a body of work set in the Stormont Estate, the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly.  The work uses the power of photography to generate allegory – letting the plants, trees and foliage  deliver a message from the grounds surrounding the Northern Ireland parliament building about the  struggles embedded in a fragile political landscape. It’s a project that looks at a landscape of conflict and reveals that its common natural elements creates a space between difference and sameness for reconciliation.

The project is made up of 6 different parts. Each part considers a different aspect of the relationship  between the political landscape and the landscape of the grounds that surround the Parliament building. For one part I used the screen of my smartphone to make 36 contact prints of plant fragments – bringing  the screen of my smartphone, that is displaying an image, in contact with traditional black and white  darkroom paper.

The MA has helped me be more confident with my imaging making, ideas generation and broadened my academic knowledge. It has make me think of photography in different ways – sculpturally, aesthetically and philosophically.

www.martinseeds.com

Gabriel Andreu

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2Gabriel Andreu

I am exploring the relationship that men have with crying: emotional suppression versus expression. Men are not as free in shedding tears due to our pervasive cultural and social ideas about manliness. Men suffer just as much as women however it appears that women are less inhibited in the act of crying than men.

For the MA Photography exhibition I will be showing two of the pieces from my work Men’s Tears / Las Lagrimas de los Hombres:

The first piece is a double-channel video installation: Las Lagrimas de mi Padre / My Father’s Tears

My first piece for this project was produced using an ethnographic approach. I interviewed men from different countries and backgrounds. I asked them several questions about crying, the last question being: Have you ever seen your father crying? This was the seed for the concept underpinning this video installation. The different experiences that each sitter had with his father caused me to think about my own experience. To see your father crying can be the most painful and at the same time the most liberating experience that a man can have.

The second piece for the exhibition it will be presented as a multi-screen video installation and as a single channel screen with music composed by M.G. Canales:

I am Going to Cry for All the Men Who didn’t Cry / Voy a Llorar por Todos los Hombres que no Lloraron 

As an actor my profession forces me to express feelings on command. As a boy I was told, “Boy’s Don’t Cry”. Boys are effectively detached from their emotions and feelings; this emotional cost exacted by our culture turns emotionally whole little boys into emotionally debilitated men. For me, to study drama was a way to reconnect with my emotions and feelings again, to be free. With this piece I want to shed the tears that all the men have held back through the ages.

The MA has helped me to understand better the way that I work on my projects and the conceptual part of it.

www.gabrielandreu.me

Pixie Bowles

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The work is based in, and named after, the city of “Kesennuma (気仙沼市)”, a costal city located in the Myagi prefecture of Tōhoku, Japan. It is a city with a strong bond with both the land and ocean, celebrated through unique cultural traditions, festivals and folklore. On March the 11th, 2011 it also became one of the cities most severely devastated by The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In Kesennuma alone a total of 1159 individuals were killed, and a further 8,136 people remain missing or displaced as a direct result of the disaster.

Before this disaster, many individuals outside of Japan had never heard of the region of Tōhoku; nor learnt of its unique cultural identity. Unfortunately this region, and in turn Kesennuma, have been introduced to the world as a site of one of the worlds greatest natural disasters. And as a result its unique histories and cultural traditions have been effectively over shadowed. Photographer Naoya Hatakeyama once said “The tsunami severed time. Time before yesterday suddenly disappeared and, as a consequence, tomorrow too was gone”, for me this quote some how taps into the very essence of my interest. My project is an attempt to discover the history of Kesennuma, through the memories of others, and it is my hope the fragments act as a reminder of the current situation in Tōhoku.

I believe that the land can retain the memory of a place; because of this philosophy I tend to incorporate elements of the landscape, such as sea water and leaves, into the process of production. This along with the exploitation of the technical limitations of photography, it is my hope that the resulting images can reveal something of Kesennumas history that has been hidden in the wake of the tsunami.

The masters has given me the opportunity to work with individuals, all with very different backgrounds and interests, and the feedback from them has allowed me to view my work from a various perspectives. The course has also challenged me academically, which has contributed significantly to improving my overall approach to creating a project.

www.pixiebowles.com

Georgs Avetisians

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3-Georgs Avetisjans Homeland

After being away for many years, I decided to return and revisit my Homeland through photography, trying to retrace the landscape, and evoke the memories and emotions of the local people. This is a search for imagined and real national identity, a creation of place, or perhaps collection of many other places into one place through the operations of memory.

Homeland is the project, which serves a nostalgic representation of the place in the longest village in Latvia and its recent history from World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As the curtain fell, the local economy changed, and in 2004, upon joining the Europe Union, it changed again. These historical shifts made a huge impact on the society and its dreams, many of which the younger generations abandoned. This project reflects on villager’s existing relationship with the land and became a metaphor for a way of life, passing of time and for how time affects and changes our sense of place.

The village is located between the forest and the sea around 100 km northwest of the capital Riga. In the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century it was the second most productive village in the country. 55 seagoing sailing ships were built there.

The course has developed my research capabilities, aesthetic control, critical thinking and improved my academic voice and understanding of how to read, review and analyse other photographic works. MA has expanded my visual thinking and writing, and opened completely new horizons and new ways of how to approach my individual practice as a visual narrator.

www.georgeavetisyan.com

Marta Benavides

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My project Eclipse deals with memory and the family album. Expectations of remembrance are embedded in photography from the very moment at which the film is loaded into the camera. Negatives are sometimes kept in family archives as treasures capable of transporting us back in time. While exploring my family archives, I realised that these bits of film that register the beginning of the process of image capture are inadvertently stored right next to the successful photographs that configure the imagery of the family.

These threshold traces are rarely printed along with the rest of the material in the family album. Through the process of scrutinising these scraps and using technology to transform them into images, I have enabled these film leaders to transcend their garbage status and become symbols of the fragility of memory. When light trespasses these brief splices of film once again, they become a portal into the past and honour the memory that the limitations of the apparatus never allowed to fully exist.

For the MA show Counter-Memory, I will be projecting them with a Kodak Carousel as a reference to the domestic ritual of sharing the family album.

From an early stage, I have been interested in remembering and forgetting processes. My main concern as an artist was finding the way of dealing with these topics without being too personal or self-involved. During two years of being fully immersed in the MA, I have been able to focus on finding my own discourse around memory and photography and making my work more universal. It has definitely set the basis for my own practice to develop further and keep exploring my interests.

www.marta-benavides.com

Lauren Shields

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‘Circus Street’ is a site-responsive exploration of the Circus Street Annex; a building which housed the photography department of the University of Brighton for over 23 years, which is soon to be demolished.

I captured these abandoned spaces once full of creativity and transformation; photographic dark rooms and work spaces, using a combination of Polaroids, film, and camera-less photograms which incorporate physical elements of my subject.

The prints exhibited have been created in the darkroom using remnants Polaroids, the bits that are usually discarded and never printed from. My processes evoke a sense of melancholic memories, and of a world we can’t quite step into.

The MA has allowed me to experiment and develop my processes in the colour darkroom, a resources so scarce outside universities! And of course having the feedback from incredible tutors and students has been invaluable.

www.laurenshields.co.uk

Richard Boll

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Six Degrees of Freedom is a response to the late seascapes of the painter J.M.W.  Turner, and to the challenges that photography faces in expressively rendering the sea.

The project involved making long exposures with a pinhole camera attached to navigation buoys in the Solent, a channel that flows around Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the town of my upbringing, and an area in which Turner painted. The images are titled with the names of the navigation buoys used.

The project creates an interplay between control and chance, and the images are directly influenced by the six directions of movement that affect a buoyant object.

The diffuse visual effects in the ten final images are part of the language of the sublime referred to by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Judgement of 1790. He distinguished between the differences of the Beautiful and the Sublime, noting that beauty “is connected with the form of the object, having boundaries”, while the sublime “is to be found in a formless object, insofar as limitlessness is represented in it”.

The MA has been a great time to really focus attention on an extensive body of work, taking it through to exhibition level, supported by a high level of guidance and support. Going back to the books this long after finishing a BA has also been very good for my practice, in re-evaluating the nature and significance of the medium.

www.richardbollphotography.com

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Check out that Facebook page here, for some good-cause-bargains and follow them on twitter here. The exhibition of the work runs from September 17th 2016 to September 23rd at the University of Brighton Grand Parade Gallery.

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