Studio Photo 06: Disrupting Borders: the Personal to the Universal

Studio brief

Disrupting Borders: the Personal to the Universal, responds to timely contemporary issues supporting students in making works that embrace speculative visions, deconstruct cultural and political myth-making and forecast new contemporary photographic subjectivities. We see the photographer as an ‘auteur’, a critical thinker that produces work that sits in the trajectory between the personal and the universal; whose subjective artistic ‘aesthetic’ finds successful application anywhere between visual art and a commercial setting.

"The malediction 'May you live in interesting times', adopted by curator Ralph Rugoff as the title of Venice Biennale 2019, implies that epochs of strife and catastrophe have one saving grace: they are never dull.” (Artforum, Sept, 2019). At the time of the dramatic uncertainty provoked by the current British and international politics, often unnervingly reminiscent of Orwell or Beckett themes, the studio’s theme points to our power [individual and collective] as photographers and artists to instigate change by agitation of existing narratives. The studio looks at the resonance of debates about gaze, subjectivity and truth focusing on their currency when considered in relation to ideas such as artifice, escapism, activism, dystopia, utopia, tragicomedy, satire and how contemporary photography can traffic through these ideas.

Reality is always a partially cloaked thing: the sum of sociopolitical structures, a cobweb of interpersonal dynamics. Attempts to touch something of the real through photography, to extend the medium beyond its historical loyalty to the indexical, can nevertheless be made; this is where accessing of the universal through the personal comes in. Could we argue that all photographs, even those perceived as documentary or commercial are to a greater or lesser extent self-portraits? How do our and other people’s personal narratives play within greater politics? Why should you care about me?

This studio will explore the ‘thoughtfulness of seeing’ in contemporary photographic practice. We will encourage investigation, probing, identifying and disrupting of borders, so the personal can be understood through, and connected to, a context of the universal.

As in all Photography BA studios, students are free to make work on any topic and of any type. The studio will teach them how to position it in a critical context of its theme, and optimise the potential impact of their work, enabling them to continue to expand the boundaries of contemporary photographic field.

The work of our students will use any combination of analogue, digital or inter-disciplinary techniques, allowing production of works that draw from traditional, experimental techniques, to latest technologies and photographic production trends, with understanding of how to make technical, methodologies, aesthetic, and material choices best suited to capture, articulate and express their unique ideas. The studio will investigate the importance of building a personal photographic language and equip students with the theoretical and technical expertise through seminars, workshops and practical experience and produce a photographic body of work, that addresses identified specialist and non-specialist audiences.

It is the ethos of our course, to embrace break down of boundaries between applied commissioned photography and documentary or fine art practice to allow our students develop practice that can be equally at home in the gallery as it is in the applied sector, as exemplified by progressive commercial photography agents such as We Folk, East, Wyatt Clarke + Jones and Art + Commerce who are working with photographers and artists. The course offers an in-depth understanding of the photography and visual art industries in which our students and graduates will choose to position their practice.

The photography studios offer a progressive structure of learning and developing photographic technical skills and professional practice between Levels 5 and 6 whilst integrating and connecting students across both years in production of personal projects with a critical perspective of the studio theme, from which to consider their work.

Students in Level 5 produce a Moving Image Project and a Personal Photography Project, which culminate in a public screening of the works and a pop-up exhibition. Students in Level 6 work on one long-term Personal Project, which culminates in a multi-platform outputs: an exhibition, a publication, a portfolio and an online presence.

Image: Ania Dabrowska, Yellow II (Bhuchung D Sonam, Tibetan Poet and Writer, Dharamshala, India), Seekers series, (2012)

Photo of power lines


Course Photography BA (Hons)
Fashion Photography BA (Hons)
Fine Art BA (Hons)
Painting BA (Hons)
Tutors Ania Dabrowska
Yiannis Katsaris
Where Calcutta House
Small Annex, CA3-04
When Monday 10am to 5pm, Thursday 10am to 5pm

Fine Art


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