Throughout the years my work has changed quite a lot, but the major shift has been my interest from working as a fashion photographer to having more of an artistic approach within my practice. This is mainly because I realised, by the time I was in the final year of my degree, that my long term goal is to be known for my personal projects. Since my projects have adopted a diarist approach, I've found out how art can be therapeutic and how it can help me through difficult times I'm going through now, or have been through.
For this post I thought I'd hop into my virtual time machine and head back in time to share what my work used to be like, in comparison to how it is now...
My first shoot:
Just before I'd decided I was definitely going to go to university to study Photography, I knew it was time to start building a portfolio. It feels really bad to admit this, but I didn't have any experience of shooting with anyone beforehand (I was too busy spending most of my life at a miserable day job). I was interested in fashion at the time but I had no idea how to pose a model. Even though this shoot obviously wasn't my best, one approach can still be seen in my shoots today, which is to capture people as naturally as I can. I love the model's relaxed posture and messy haired look here.
Beginning to use the studio:
Just a few months on and look at the difference! After getting by with doing location projects for the first semester of the first year, I was very excited to be finally learning the mechanics of a studio. There seemed to be a lot to get my head around, but I knew I'd be able to create my best work in this environment. I'd done some practice shoots before this one, so the above photo isn't from my first ever shoot in the studio, but the second. Shot on medium format film, when printed in the darkroom it looks even better than these scanned versions. I've worked with Ellie quite a few times with shoots throughout uni and I think the reason why I always get good results from her is because she's at complete ease in front of the camera - a photographer's dream!
First time working with a designer:
I remember sending out tweets during the summer of 2015, after I'd finished the first year of university, asking bloggers whether they wanted to shoot because I didn't want to take a break from shooting over the summer, I needed to keep practicing. Samantha Davies was in her final year of university studying Fashion Design at the time, and she approached me to shoot her final collection. I said yes, feeling pretty excited, but I was very nervous on the day when I had to shoot three models together on a location, yet I was still getting used to shooting with my first DSLR and felt like the day wasn't going well at all. It was definitely a learning curve and I was able to see where I needed to improve for the future. So in certain ways this shoot was a big learning curve for me, despite leaving feeling it was nowhere near my best work. I felt the photo above was the best one from the shoot.
Once back at uni for my second year I threw myself straight into shooting in the studio, this time alone. I started to get really creative with my shoots, and sometimes it would be the simplest of ideas that would turn out to be the best, as shown in the photo above when we got the opportunity to shoot for Domke. At this point I was planning all of my projects to be shot in the studio which I preferred because of the control I had with the lighting.
The inspiration behind my 'Your Stories' project:
I had to change direction completely in summer 2016 because I knew my studio at home wasn't going to be completed, and therefore I needed to build a brand new portfolio from scratch. That's when my business mentor with SPEED got me in touch with some makers and designers from Stoke-on-Trent known as FourMakers@No.5. I went to their studio to shoot with them whilst they worked away creating their pieces, and then did some product shoots and portraits at the end. My favourite part of the day was shooting with the designers busy at work in their studios because I was able to capture them very naturally in their element whilst they worked away on their pieces. After speaking to the ladies at the end of the day, I was left inspired to work on a project where I meet with women working on their dream careers, giving readers of my blog insight into their world and hopefully a nudge in the right direction for them to work towards their dream career too. And so I left and worked on this project through my final year of university. Each title began with 'The Story of...' and it was only a year later that the project finally had a name. Your Stories.
Ebook review shoot for Frances B:
When Fran got in touch to ask me to review her eBook 'Runaway Moments', I decided to turn it into something more. Why not meet and shoot with the author herself, and post the photos alongside my review? You don't get any more exclusive content than that! Luckily Fran agreed and we arranged to shoot in Manchester. On this day I remember feeling a lot more confident shooting on location, but also with my kit. I fell in love with shooting with my 50mm prime lens and couldn't wait to get the post up on my blog. It was during the summer of 2016 that I started using the written word within my work, and this has continued since, including within my Final Major Project.
Final Major Project:
Even though I've done identity related projects throughout my time at university, the 'Diary' project has been the most successful and personal because I have used actual entries from a diary I kept in 2014. I remember putting a lot of pressure on myself, feeling like I want to quit because the project wasn't doing what I wanted it to and it was totally different visually compared to any work I'd done in the past. I was resisting immensely to reveal too much within the work (this is my diary after-all), even after lecturer's were telling me I have to, but in the end I gave in and took on their advice for a technique I have used in my final piece. Even though I was getting good feedback from crit sessions and lecturers, I didn't actually fall in love with the project until I saw it framed and hung up on the wall for the degree show! Seeing the project finally finished made me realise how much my work had changed over the past three years and that in actual fact I liked the direction my work was going in. What I learnt from this project is that it's okay for projects to go in directions I wouldn't expect them to, in fact they need to if I'm going to create my best work. When I got an email from my lecturer telling me the external examiner from the London College of Fashion said my work was best in show, I was bloody well shocked! (and delighted, of course).
Staying broke and shooting film:
It was also during my final year of university that I started getting back into shooting film, which felt pretty strange since I couldn't wait to be done with it once first year was over. But in my final year I started to appreciate the quality of film a lot more and decided to shoot film during development stages of my final major project too. I noticed I was thinking a lot more about what I was shooting, which shouldn't come as a surprise since there are only 36 frames in a roll. I started to shoot my family at home, an example shown above with my mum, and I felt that black and white works very well for this type of documentary photography.
During my current course, Masters in Research by Art and Design, my work is continuing to focus on photography and writing. At the moment I'm focussing on the written part, but with the test shoot I've already done I decided that I was going to continue shooting film, this time as self-portraits within the studio. Shooting black and white means that I can develop my own negatives at university which gives me more control over the developing process. I'm not yet sure which direction this work is going to go in, especially since I'm doing the course over two years, but I'm glad I've got the plenty of time to work on one project and try to make it even better than my Final Major Project.
I'd love to know which works you like best from this post! Tweet me on @yasminqureshi_