Anna Edwards studied photography at Plymouth College of Art and then completed her final year at Birmingham City University. She graduated in 2018. We interviewed her to find out what she had been doing since then and to ask her some questions about photography.
Tell us a bit about your background. When did your interest in photography start and where did you study photography?
Originating as a rural bumpkin dreaming of life in the city, creativity has always drawn me in: Outputs of alternative solutions to thought and transmitting them through art and literature. There’s never been a plan B or ‘what if’ beyond a life of creative productivity. I studied art & photography throughout my higher education across Plymouth College of Art and Birmingham City University. I’m also born in the year of the Ox, if any of their traits add some indication towards my character.
How did your studies help you?
Group crits were a huge revelation, discovering that my greatest ideas could be discussed, dissected and drawn apart by other creative minds was terrifying and transforming and crucial to my progression.
Attractively infinite knowledge in the form of lecturers, speakers, audiences and peers suggesting books, works, papers and ideas that ignite revelations throughout the creative process is also a brilliant addition to the study package, would recommend if you’ve got the gusto.
What are you doing now?
Hacking away at adult life with dreams of monetising my work amidst a creative community. Continuously on the creative trail with self-initiating projects that actively keep me engaging in image-making. Ensuring time for my practice and trying to stay in touch with the creative world through a subscription to Art Review.
What or who influences your work?
“I will not make any more boring art.”
The late John Baldessari. An icon and legend of alternative thought and conceptual art. Photography wise Jack Davidsons work kills me it’s so GOOD. He embodies a style of work I would love to create; he takes pictures every day too, he told me. John Berger as well, great for igniting photographic thought. Traditional painters of the renaissance and their view towards light are another draw, as well as engaging art house cinema, particularly Alphaville, or anything by John-Luc Godard.
What is your approach to making work?
It depends on the work I’m looking to produce. It has to excite me, otherwise what’s the point. Sometimes it’s just taking the camera out and making compositions to take further. Other times it’s an interest in a person or a community or an activity I’d like to know more about. Sometimes you have to work for it, really work hard to make it happen, and other times it comes to you in a transcending moment.
Finding books and papers that fuel my conceptual ideas is another one, they are essential in aiding ideas to grow into a realised piece of work/project.
Can you describe your work? How do you make work?
On the one hand, my work is documentary heavy, with an interest towards an investigation of communities and people. Portraiture is great fun as much as it is scary wielding the responsibility of depicting an individual or group through an image(s) stylised through my eyes. On the other side, my work will be heavily conceptual, the image used as an aid for the projection of thought. I find both equally as fascinating.
I have recently relocated back down South and this current project depicts the world of the Brixham fish market and trawler agents. The environment is alien, the equipment appears dated yet futurist, the spaces inhabited with workers are solitary even though its a group effort in processing the daily catches. It’s still developing, the pictures I’m making definitely have a voice beyond purely recording the location and the trade, the isolated nature of them also a nod towards our current situation. I have hopes that it will bet published either as an online photo essay or perhaps a publication.
What do you think is the future of image-making and photography?
Great question. The world of photography changes so quickly that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. As we know, now more people are empowered with photography than photographers themselves, and with that mad accessibility to taking pictures, comes boring pictures. I think that the future of exciting image-making will be via interesting photography, perhaps abstract, that will rely on a conceptual basis that is beyond any truth of imagery or documentation.
The other day I also read about the potential of biometric sensing cameras in the future that can read eye movement to take pictures, which is pretty crazy.
What do you think is the role of art?
Art is a sacred visual species, we gaze at it in ignorance and wonder, the unknown shines through at us in partially articulated form; a window into the transcendent. As artists, we are contending with the unknown, and we can’t help it. It’s a duty to our personality, we have to carry a load otherwise we’ll die, cursed with the necessity of stepping foot into the uncharted and making sense of it. We hold the audacious notion of being omnipotent, presenting our world for viewers to receive.
It seems that often we need in our culture to justify art, but it’s vital; it’s a call to a higher being. People are afraid of beauty, but it shouts out at you. To establish a relationship with beauty is to implement beauty into other parts of our lives, it’s bold and it’s necessary.
Invite art into your life. Let it seep into your life. It will open your eyes to the domain of the transcendent. We are finite, and limited, and bounded by our lack of knowing, we need art as a connection to the infinite, to get the strength to prevail and familiarise ourselves with the wisdom of our civilisation.
We cannot live without art, life is too afflictive and agonising in the absence of the sublime.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Heck. Still making work and aesthetic decisions, writing frequently, refining my work and developing approaches to thought and practice.
At the end of the day, I’d rather be working in a bar part-time if the work I’m making is good, then sacrifice myself for a good wage and comfortable lifestyle.
How do you see your work developing?
I see the articulation of my work developing into a state where others can understand what the work is illustrating in a coherent way. Yes, all work is subjective, but guiding the viewer in my direction of thought and them receiving it would be a dream.
Creating a larger audience for my work is a big one, increasing engagement with reach. I’d love to be doing lectures and inspiring others.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Keep making work, grinding. Whether that’s producing ideas, writing them down, investigating how they could work, talking to other creatives, seeing what’s already been done, experimenting, just…keep generating. If you’re passionate enough you will. I dare you!
What is the most useful advice you have received?
Keep making work, keep asking questions, keep the magic happening. Don’t focus on making the best work, just focus on making more work to begin with and the good work will sift through like gold.