SCHOLARS #1: FRANCESCA SOLLOWAY
BY GAIA MUSACCHIO, STEVE BISSON
1. Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?
My approach to photography really started as an aesthetic, taking pictures of things that interested me; for the most part it involved the landscape. When building an idea I will normally shoot a few images around a very vague idea and then begin to research into other photographers and then from there look at many other sources, most often not photographic.
Photography for me started when I was studding art at school, we were often asked to take observational studies to paint from. This was the point where I found myself enjoying capturing the image far more than painting it, it was a point in time where I was becoming frustrated with painting, finding that I was never satisfied with the result, but there was no way I could see it improve it.
© Francesca Solloway from the series ‘Liquid Thoughts’
From here first shoots were often very basic, lacking in any strong research, it was a point in time where I was not really looking to capture anything other than colour or a moment in time.
2. How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?
The research really evolved from none at all to a set regime of research shoot, research, shoots. When looking at my early images it is easy to see that there was a very different thought process. I now look more into deep research, and this is not always photography, I believe that inspiration can come from anywhere and I look to find ideas from all kinds of places whether that be painting, sculpture, video, or even fictional books. It’s truly important to keep a fresh and open mind when it comes to researching anything.
3. Tell us about your educational path. You are attending the Southampton Solent University. What are your best memories of your studies? What was your relationship with photography when you started?
The path into photography through education has really been a very rewarding process, I have learn so much more than when I began and found a new love for film and hand printing the darkrooms. My relationship to photography when I first started was more about capturing colour, I was less interested in making bodies or series of work that had meaning, for me at the time it was about moving away from painting to find something I could do without the frustration.
© Francesca Solloway from the series 'Natures Land’
4. What are the courses that you are passionate about and which are meaningful for you?
The units that caught my attention were more about making your own work, taking the images, printing, editing down and so on. Writing is not for all of us, and I am no exception to this rule. I enjoy shooting and even sometimes enjoy the disappointment of a shoot not coming out as I envisaged it in my head, sometimes I find this refreshing and gives me a chance to try something else.
5. Any professor or teacher that has allowed you to better understand your work?
Yes, while at college I was very much influenced by my lecture Walter Waygood. In was inspired by his images of Wales in the style of Ansel Adams and Edward Western. I guess this is where my love of the landscape came from.
© Walter Waygood from the series 'South Wales Valleys’
6. About your work now. How would you describe your personal research in general?
My research is an important part of my practice, before any shoot I prefer to have an artist in mind while I shoot, it’s not always necessary but sometime I like to shoot in a style of another artist to then see where I can go from there. Once I have done a few shoots I like to then go back to the research and find more photography, art, video or anything else that will inspire me to shoot in a different way or in a different style. Without research it is often hard to find any direction or to critically analyse your work, with the research I can look at my own images to see if they are working to show what I want, or to see if there is a better way to do so.
© Francesca Solloway from the series 'Natures Land'
7. The nature and its perception is a recurring theme through your works. How does it relate to your artistic belief?
From day one of picking up my camera I was interested in nature, as a child I have been exposed to nature, I have lived in the south of England all my life and have used the many different landscapes around me as my playgrounds. Other than my childhood experiences influencing my art now, painting was a huge influence on my relationship with photography and nature. Painters such as J M William Turner and Claude Monet were inspirations to my interest in idyllic, bright landscapes full of colour and vibrancy; from here I wanted to capture all kinds of light, to capture atmosphere and weather, however now I am more interested in capturing it in a documentary way as well as using it to show emotions, such as my work for 'Utopian Nightmare’.
8. Tell us about ‘Utopian Nightmare’?
'Utopian Nightmare’ as a title was used to create juxtaposition between something pleasant and idealistic with something cold and dark. The project its self stemmed from my childhood growing up in the New Forest, UK, as a child you feel so small in the forest, surrounded by trees the seam to go on forever. However this idyllic image of the forest and childhood was not something I was very interested in, I was far more interested in capturing those childhood feelings of loss and fear.
© Francesca Solloway from the series 'Utopian Nightmare’
At this point I choose to shoot at night; after all we have all had a fear of the dark at some point. I looked very heavily into the tales by the Brothers Grimm and how children, dark and loss were very connected. After putting all these ideas together I choose to shoot at twilight, the reason was I wanted my images to be beautiful, seductive to the eye, yet I wanted them to repel the viewer to make them think again about the landscape they were viewing. After many shoots I found that still and dead pan images of the woods were not evoking these feelings, I chose to add the motion blur creating this cage like trees that trapped the still areas of the image, the areas that the viewer would lock onto. Overall the images have a rich blue colour luring in the viewer but due to the dark and depth of these images they become uncanny.
© Francesca Solloway from the series 'Utopian Nightmare’
9. Do you have any preferences in terms of cameras and format?
I love shooting on all formats of camera whether that be digital or film, however since my time studding photography I have found myself preferring to shoot on my Mamiya RB67 Pro S, I all so have a love for pinhole photography and have done many interesting shoots with my pinhole camera made from an old beer can of all things.
10. Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, that influenced you in some way?
There are many artists that I have discovered over the years, the F64 Group being my main influences in the past and still even now have a large influence on my work. However there are a fair few contemporary artists that have influenced me Edward Burtynsky being a main focus for my work. Both Ori Gersht and Uta Bath have been influenced on my images as well as Burtynsky.
© Ori Gersht, Falling Bird series, Untitled No. 8, 2008
11. Three books of photography that you recommend?
I recommend that every one reads weather about photographic history or just too look for inspiration. Much of my inspiration has come from fictional books such as Italo Calvino’s 'Invisible Cities’.
My top three books would have to be Charlotte Cottons the 'Photograph as Contemporary Art’, the 'Photograph’ by Graham Clark and finally 'Camera Lucida’ by Roland Barthes. All three books have been used repeatedly when making a body of work and have all influenced my photography in some way or another.
© Francesca Solloway from the series 'Light Pollution’
12. Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?
I always try to get to shows as I feel that it is a huge eye opener when looking at your own work, to understand how you approach issues around displaying images within a large space and understanding the importance or putting together a show, making sure the images you have selected flow together. However the most inspiring would have to be Edward Burtynsky’s Oil at The Photographers Gallery in London. The scale of the images was incredible and got me thinking about the detail with in his images.
I recently attended the Brighton Photo Biennal and viewed a series of different shows there, the most recent exhibition would have to have been Trevor Paglen’s Geographies of seeing, and this show has been a part of my inspiration to look at the effects of light pollution.
© Trevor Paglen, They Watch the Moon, 2010
13. Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?
There are always projects on my mind, they do not always turn out quite how I want them or how I envisaged them in my head, but still I feel that you must try all possibilities to find out what works and does not work.
At current I am looking at light pollution and its effects on nature and landscape, I am a frequent star gazer and I am often confronted by the effects of light pollution so in my frustration I have decided to look at this issue through the use of my camera. Currently I am focusing in on the landscape and the sky, but I am hoping to look further at the issues surrounding wildlife as well as people.© Photo Schools | Francesca Solloway