This month we are finding out a little more about the recent winners of Metro Mentorships which we run annually with various institutes and universities. The first in the series of interviews is with Claire Cooper the first winner of the Gray's School of Art Metro Mentorship Award .
Firstly congratulations on winning the first ever Gray's School of Art Metro Mentorship award. What does it mean to you to have won and what do you hope to learn from the experts here at Metro?
Thank you! It is a fantastic opportunity and I can’t wait to start working with the team. I am so grateful to have been given the chance for invaluable advice and support from those in the company. The chance to gain knowledge and skills from the expert team at Metro Imaging will prove to be incredibly beneficial to my practice and I’m looking forward to working with people who are not as familiar with my work and will have a fresh take on it.
How you would describe your overall style of photography and what inspires your photography in general?
It wasn’t until my final year at Grays that I really found a way of working that I enjoyed. I had never photographed portraiture before, and I feel that a lot of it relies on the model you are working with to get the image you need. It’s a risk, but it’s a challenge and I think that’s why I stuck with it and will continue to do so. It became evident that the process of planning a shoot was of great importance with all my ideas. There is a strong element of control throughout every aspect of my work and that has been a key factor of my entire practice.
I am still very much coming to terms with my work and the reasoning behind it. I am interested in the intimidation created by the unfamiliar and how easily a replica of someone we once knew can be transformed in to an individual beyond our own recognition through unusual forms.
You have a particular interest in analogue photographic techniques – what inspired or led you to these ideas?
I am very much interested and involved in the analogue side of photography. Of course, you have your everyday colour and black and white prints, but alternative processes and techniques really appeal to me. I have worked with Lith previously, but more so with Bromoil where I found the results to be very rewarding due to the time and effort it takes to make the one print. Working with these allowed me to show others how vast darkroom photography can be – it is not necessarily just taking a photograph and developing it. There are a lot more options which, after much experimentation, can really enhance your images if the right technique is used with the right photo. The problem solving aspect of it all can be challenging, but I love how every print is unique.
Have you always had an ambition to become a photographer and if so what do you think sparked that interest?
No actually! I applied to Grays for the painting course. After trying out a taster for all of the specialist areas, painting just wasn’t for me. I much preferred the magic that happened in the darkrooms, being more hands on and learning about the science and processes associated with it. There is a lot more to darkroom photography than people think, and I certainly had no idea about any of it until Grays, which I am incredibly grateful for.
Do you have any interesting current projects or upcoming exhibitions you’d like to share with us?
I wish to progress from where I left off. I plan to focus more on specific ideas that I perhaps didn’t develop as much as I would have liked to. The covering of the face will still remain to be a significant part of my work and I would like to incorporate more colour this coming year opposed to the black and white approach I have been so used to.
The rise of photography in Aberdeen will see me helping with the organisation and participation in the city’s first photography festival which I am very excited to be a part of.
What are your ultimate photography/career goals?
I think there is still a lot to explore with my current body of work and the continuation of it will make my intentions more clear. The development and creation of new work will be crucial to this and focusing on my own personal projects will help to narrow down the reasoning behind my practice.