Deborah recently shared the wonderful news that her first monograph is being published by Galerie Vevais and edited by William Ropp in October, and her first solo exhibition will open at The Theater by the Lake in Keswick in September. How did she make it happen? I decided to find out. Deborah’s interview follows.
I first wrote about your work two years ago, when I started to see
you images out in the world. So much has happened for you in those two
years, including a book to be published this fall, but let’s start at the
beginning. What brought you to photography?
album, but I think my passion for the photograph came through when researching for
a Ph.d in Women’s Holocaust writing.
It was here that I saw the power of the photograph & it’s place in
personal history & memory.
I gave up my Ph.d (was supposed to be a temporary measure) & enrolled on a
local photography course – which I did for a couple of years. From there I went to university to
study a part-time photography degree.
I took these courses as a way of breaking the monotony of changing
nappies & cleaning the home. I
loved having children but I needed to use my brain or do something creative
too. So the passion for the
photograph turned into a passion for photography with the birth of my children.
was only supposed to take up 12 hours a week of my life but because of my
nature, it became more like a 50 hour week. It was also an 80 mile round trip too & I needed to be
there at least 4 days a week. I
set up a darkroom at home & would work into the early hours of the morning
learning my craft – the children would come in & help – Fleur would
sometimes fall asleep almost at my feet. At university I studied all different genres of photography
from documentary, studio, street, historical processes & to the more
conceptual/staged photography. It
was great to have a go at all of these but it was here that I realized that I
wanted to concentrate on things closer to my heart & photograph my family
& things personal to me.
childhood memories – mainly about my feelings of my parents’ divorce & my
troubled time at school. However, Fleur
was becoming more unsettled at nursery & I knew she was starting school
within a year & I didn’t want history repeating itself. I wanted her settled & happy. So, I
decided to leave. My tutors were very understanding. They did try to persuade me to stay & said that I needed
to ease up on myself – don’t chase grades – but I knew that I would only ever
be happy if I put 100% into my work – I needed to find a balance. University was great as it allowed me
to learn so much, but leaving was also the best thing I did as I liberated me
& allowed me to follow my own path.
the photographer William Ropp and asked William to introduce us as he was
interested in buying some of my work. After that we became friends on Facebook and he saw
that I was making my own books. He
asked me if I would be interested in Galerie Vevais publishing my work (at this
point it was for the ‘September is the Cruellest Month’ series). The books I had been making had tipped
in prints & handwritten text – Alex wanted to create a similar book, with
the same intimacy (although so much better). It evolved from there.
It started as one book, Alex then included my ‘Stillness’ & ‘memory’ series into what has become the
Trilogy. Originally William Ropp
was to be the editor with Professor John Wood (poet & editor at 21st
Century) writing the essay. Then, Alex had another idea. He wanted to make a softcover version,
with a collection of my work that was more affordable to the public. William Ropp has kindly edited this
book & John Wood has now edited the Trilogy.
constraints…when do you make your work and how often?
I work with my family – although saying that, every minute of my day is full
& I am constantly trying to catch up.
I think it would be much more difficult if I was working on something
that outside of family life – like landscape or a documentary project for
example. Photography fits into my
family life & not the other way.
I also get up really early & have a wonderful husband who supports
me in everything I do.
brought to your work?
time in which those working with historical processes are criticized for hiding
behind the process. In other
words, creating weak work (whatever that is) and making it more interesting by the
process they use. However, I do
feel that working with wet plate collodion has made my work feel more intimate,
more personal (although I do feel that working with a large format camera also
adds to this). I love the
intimacy of the process. It is really
wonderful working with your hands, it becomes more than seeing with your eye or
feeling with your heart – I love
the tintypes as objects – I think it comes back to my love affair of the
you craft this object –the way you pour your chemistry all adds to the way the
final image will look. For
example, if you rush, or are nervous, under pressure (which you can easily feel
when working with children which requires you to stay calm & work
efficiently so that they relax and the plate doesn’t dry) this can be reflected
in the way you pour or develop or even focus your camera.
representation etc – things like that were for other people. I just wanted to be a good photographer
and leave something, a legacy for my children & maybe grandchildren. So ultimately I feel you need to work
hard, learn your craft & be passionate about your subject. Do it for yourself because not everyone
will like what you do & you can’t please everyone, so you must love doing
what you do. I have also found the
Internet to be an excellent way of sharing work & for being inspired by
other artists too.
the last two years?
time. Naturally, it’s a
rollercoaster ride but thankfully the positive has outweighed the
negative. During this time I have
been published in several magazines, both online & traditional print such
as Ag & Shots. I have also
been in several exhibitions in the U.S including at Gallery Carte Blanche in
San Francisco. And, as previously
mentioned I have had all my three series published by Galerie Vevais, which are
due to be released in October 2012. I even have an image on a cover of a Cd, which is lovely.
ways to present my work, such as Ethiopian bookbinding & more recently a
platinum/palladium, digital negatives. I have also helped assist Carl Radford
on wet plate workshops –who has been an amazing mentor to me.
online and off. I hope they know
who they are. These people have
supported, advised and encouraged me in ways that I could never have envisaged.
with a global photographic community?
blog. I just posted as a way of
sharing work with family & friends but this grew. Tom Chambers kindly
suggested that I should send in one of my images for the Lenscratch family
exhibition – which I did. I
remember he was so kind and actually came back and reminded me. Then, I was featured on Lenscratch and
the photographic community opened up enormously – especially in the U.S. Andy Adams of Flak has also been very
supportive of my work and again it has allowed me to connect to people I never
would have had the opportunity too living here in Hexham. It’s quite funny really because I can
walk into the school playground to pick up my daughter and hardly anyone knows
that I am a photographer & yet I correspond with lots of people from around
notice that you post your work on FB quite a lot–has that helped get the word
confidence to go around galleries with my work & to be honest, I wouldn’t
have the money to travel around the country or abroad or go to some of the
portfolio reviews on offer.
So the Internet has allowed me to be part of a community that would have
never otherwise happened. As a
mother of small children, I never would have had the time either to be
would have never come into contact with many people who have become my mentors
children. I am looking forward to
working with new children this summer (and my old friends too). I will always photograph my children –
or as long as they allow me and I want to start on platinum/palladium
printing. My Polaroid work is all
4×5 positives so would be lovely to convert them to a digital negative and print
them using this process – not sure how it will turn out but always need to be
learning something new. Other than
that, I have no idea. I will just
go with the flow in the way I always do.
And finally, what would be your perfect day?
of the lake district with my family & then sit by the lake in the evening
eating fish & chips & no-one else is around – it is so quiet and we are
so happy. Of course my camera is
perched on its’ tripod ready to capture this & the branch is found that
will hang out my Polaroid to dry.