Interview - The Pupil Sphere
Hi Anthony, thank you for speaking with us. As we are currently in a world pandemic, can you start by introducing yourself and telling us how you have been keeping busy in the past few weeks?
Hi, I’m Anthony. I am a Photographer, associate lecturer, PGCHE (teaching in higher education) student and part of the team at Raw Capture, a digital capture company in London. I live in Cornwall and work between Falmouth and London. However, since the pandemic I have been mainly working remotely from my home in a little town called Flushing on the opposite side of the estuary from Falmouth.
How have I been keeping busy? Well, I have been supporting my second year BA Photography students with their projects during this time as well as working on assignments for my teacher training and spending some time revisiting my favourite photo-books. I have also started working on two new personal projects which are really exciting.
What can you tell us about your time as an assistant photographer in London, after you finished your BA at Falmouth? How important was that experience to you?
Well, I started off by taking a year out and worked in a live music venue in my home town of Bath to save some money and have a bit of time out. I then moved to London and took an internship at a digital company where I learnt about the digital side of the photography industry (prior to this I had only really worked with film). During this position, I had the opportunity to meet some really interesting photographers, producers and other assistants in the industry and I began building up my contacts. It has only been in the latter part of my career and talking about assisting with some of my students, that I have realised how important and vital those contacts have been, as I still work with some of them today.
I sent out lots of emails to photographers and production companies to try and get my foot in the door. The reality of it is, that many do not reply because they are just too busy. However, perseverance is a necessity in this industry and my advice would be to keep going and not get disheartened. I sent in my portfolio to a photographers agent who was offering portfolio reviews and as a result I ended up with my first assisting job with Igor Borisov, a kids fashion photographer. This evolved into working with him on a regular basis as his first assistant. This opportunity led me to many other assisting jobs with other photographers such as Ryan McGinley. All of these were amazing experiences for me. I learnt a lot from these practitioners, worked long hours and it wasn’t as glamorous as some may think but I absolutely loved every minute of it.
A lot of undergraduates wonder whether or not they should go straight into a Masters degree or gain real-life experience first. After assisting, you went on to become a staff photographer at Bath University before going to do your MA, do you think this time out from education was beneficial to you?
Put simply, absolutely.
To be able to understand who you are as a photographic practitioner you need time and experiences. After 3 years, I realised that London life wasn’t for me. Despite this, I was so glad that I did it and would recommend ‘going for it’ if it has been a consideration of yours as a new photographer. I took some time to make some important decisions in my personal life and I saw the job advertisement for Staff Photographer at Bath University. Corporate Photography wasn’t something I had much experience in but I applied for the job. This opened up a whole new area of my career for about 4 years up until last year.
Taking this leap lead me to a variety of different commissions which saw me photographing important corporate figures, events and even members of the royal family. I won’t ramble on too much, but having my eyes opened to this side of the photography industry, when all I had really known was fashion and advertising, encouraged me to continue evaluating and exploring my own practice. I would urge anyone to take every opportunity that crops up – even if you don’t think it is relevant at the time. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you never know where an opportunity is going to come from.
So you’re now studying for a PGCHE AND working as an associate lecturer at Falmouth. What was the jump like going from studying and practicing photographer to teaching the subject?
I am very much still practicing photography although mainly now on the odd editorial portrait commission and my personal projects. I was nominated as student rep on my MA course and in this role I supported some of my peers with their projects. I have found that my new role as associate lecturer has taken a similar stance. I love being a part of the Higher Education environment and have found the jump a really comfortable one for me.
At the end of day, I feel very lucky to be able to spend my days discussing my profession with students who want to learn.
Your work is consistent in its themes, as you have described being memory, imagination, time and duration, the family album and archives. Why do you think you are drawn to such personal subjects?
That’s a good question and a difficult one to answer. I think growing up closely with my Christian grandparents, where a lot of my time was spent in and around church congregations and local communities, I met and socialised with a considerable amount of people from all walks of life. Meeting lots of different people has drawn me to exploring the individuality of people’s history. And I think, during my MA, I hit a point where I stopped trying to make the work that I thought people wanted to see and rather made work that I wanted to make.
Your project, Ipseity, explores a personal archive belonging to your Grandmother. Can you tell us how you first came across the archive and when you knew it would form a research project?
Ipseity was my Final Major Project for my Masters Degree. At the time of writing a project proposal, my grandmother who has been an integral part of my work since, was taken into hospital for emergency heart surgery. The possibility of loss at this time prompted me to look at memory, my family album and my grandmothers’ archives as a photographic response.
Her ‘cabinet of curiosities’ was sat in her living room when she was taken to hospital by the paramedics. I took a moment before following on to look inside and it was this collection of meaningful objects (all with an individual history) that began my journey.
In the project statement you mention that the investigation has led you to assess the personal archive in relation to your own identity. Has working with the subject revealed anything about yourself or who you are as an artist?
Well most definitely as an artist as I have completely stopped making any work that I don’t think is authentic to me. Since this journey, I worry less about aesthetic now and instead focus on what I want to achieve and get out of the projects. What I think I mean is that, not all of my projects look or feel the same. My work spans from high definition birds eye views of my grandmothers’ archives to re-edited super 8 film, re-worked family album photographs and sound recordings of conversations.
If you could re-do, do more of, or not do anything throughout your photographic education, what would it be?
I would have read more had I known now the benefits. Having started to do so more in the last few years, I feel I have a deeper and more critical understanding of the world which has benefited my work across the board – not just my personal practice but also my teaching and supporting of students with their projects.