Recently I have had the pleasure of speaking with the lovely Amber Brown, who is also part of the collective ‘Collectivef8’.
Her ‘Every Cloud’ project really stands out to me, how she has decided to work back into those beautiful images she’s able to capture and be experimental on another level other than within her photography practice.
Briefly explain what you do/what your approach to Photography is.
Hello! I’m Amber and I’m an aspiring photographer based in Northumberland, however in my second year studying at Edinburgh College of Art where I also have an interest in collaboration and curation.
Most of my work concerns the notion of home in various aspects over a social, political and personal promise whilst I continue to learn and explore traditional analogue processes. I really cannot praise the therapeutic process of developing my own film enough and how wonderful it feels seeing it come to life step-by-step.
Explain your current project ‘The Coming Soon Land’
‘The Coming Soon Land’ explores both structures within development and the overgrowth of environment as a factor of postponed development in an unnamed town subject to the lift of tourism. It discusses the prospect of social housing, particularly the growing ambitions of mass unaffordable housing during a crisis nationally where infrastructure is lacking. This often results in a bleak, uneasy, overgrown landscape which becomes unkempt and untouched many years, which is what the images illustrate. The project is shown in exhibition format as two large prints and an artist’s book which I am working on at present to become a more accessible, easily distributed zine.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
I really enjoyed my previous project ‘Every Cloud’ where I took analogue images of the sea in my hometown and painted silver leaf into them to create discussion of preciousness and the fishing industry. I guess that incorporated taking on the role of a painter too, which is something I’ve always been rather shy about, and so was quite experimental. Personal projects seem to grab my interest most, and so ‘The Coming Soon Land’ is one I feel most passionate about and one which has made me grow technically as a photographer, so I would like to continue it further.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures? Whose work has influenced you most?
We’re always learning; every exhibition or new discovery feels like educating! It’s always productive to get constructive feedback on work and I really enjoy reading about photography. Recently, David Carson’s book ‘Fotografiks’ really helped me in grasping how to make my book layouts more creative.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Ah, a good question – probably knowing the amount of techniques there actually are and that there are actually facilities to try these new things if you search around enough!
From your point of view, what makes a good picture?
Definitely its ability to evoke emotion and a dialogue with the viewer. All of my favourite photographs are definitely ones that are emotionally powerful or hold social or political layers.
Since the photography techniques and equipment change quickly, it is important to stay up-to-date or go with your own approach? What do you do to always keep up with the times while still maintaining your own ‘style’?
This is really interesting as since starting my degree, every single one of my projects has been analogue based. I still use digital to test alongside and for projects outwith; while I do scan my negatives, most of the equipment I love using is years older than me so I definitely prefer to go my own way. However, I do read photography magazines and keep an eye on new pledge projects, especially ones that are creating new analogue equipment. For example, I absolutely love Intrepid’s 5×4 and 8×10 large format lightweight cameras which I’d love to invest in one day – a blessing in disguise for a not too physically strong photographer like myself!
Nowadays almost everyone has access to devices with which it is possible to take pictures. What do you think is the difference between a professional photographer and any other hobby photographer?
You’re right, it’s wonderful that photography is so accessible on one hand as accessible art is something I feel strongly about. But also, with such a high amount of imagery floating around, it’s probably hard to filter it into categories outwith curated websites for photographers. There’s definitely a difference in how serious the photographer is about their work, the way it’s shown, what they do with the work and whether that connects directly as their source of living.
Who influenced you the most? Is there any other photographer that you consider as a kind of idol?
Excuse the coincidental name, but my main inspiration at the moment is the Amber Collective who run the Side Gallery in Newcastle. Both on a photographer and curator level, they have such an expansive archive, which is very inspiring. I have a good handful of favourites – Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Tish Murtha, Rodney Graham, Sally Mann – and am still discovering more and more but the Amber Collective is a group I really admire in their work to document the working class within the North East. It was a shift of perspective to salvage the past, and areas which were drastically changing.
In your free time, what kind of pictures do you like to shoot and which ones do you avoid?
Not so much avoiding, there’s a lot I’d be open to trying or working more on but atmospheric landscapes and documentary works are definitely what I love working with most. I used to shoot a lot of gigs in my spare time and more portraiture, which I hope to do more of but everything seems to blend into one regarding time. I don’t tend to separate things as they usually take up my free time anyway, which isn’t a bad thing!
Would you class photography more liberating/restrictive than other art forms?
In itself, photography is definitely a very liberating art form in its nature to share and make viewers aware. I’d like to argue that it’s not artistically restrictive at all, but then each form of art is only as restrictive as you make it. Photography doesn’t restrict to the size of a computer screen – although this works for some pieces – and can go so much beyond the perceived typical size of an image in ways of presenting.
What will be the future of photography in next 20 years? We have seen an extreme shift in the photographic tech and styles in the last couple of decades. Where will it be in future in your opinion?
Oh! I went to a really great lecture by Simon Baker – photography curator of the Tate – as part of Stills’ 40th Anniversary events. And there was a discussion there that in future, there may be more intertwining between analogue and digital rather than a separation. I guess that means to me that the two will somewhat be seen as very equal. We’ve already seen more analogue products being proposed and making their way to the market, so I hope it will continue to develop in that way and digitally we’ll keep seeing amazing technical progression.
Where do you see your career going?
Ideally, I’d love to finish my BA at ECA and head back to the North East to do a Masters in Gallery Studies and continue my own work. I’m definitely a bit of a home-bird and would love to contribute to the North East art scene in future, but will hopefully figure the goal out on the way!
Any upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?
Yes! At the moment, I’m working with fellow artists on an all-female photography group in Edinburgh called ‘Collective F8’ in organising and curating an exhibition in September. We’ve just had our end-of-year exhibition so are taking a small breather but will be starting a crowd-funder soon to raise money for the opening and to publish a photographic zine. You’ll hear from us soon!
I’m also very excited to be showcasing at Alnmouth Art Festival this year!
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t mentioned?
Yes sorry, a little pitch! One opportunity that may benefit any established or budding photographers. I’m on trial as an ambassador with the wonderful Picfair, who are always looking for photographers to work with! It’s essentially a platform, which sets photographers up so businesses can use their work – and you get paid exactly what you want to get paid for your work, no funny business at all. We recently had one of our young photographer’s work on the cover of the National Geographic, exciting stuff. All you have to do is trot along to this link below and start uploading your work!
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