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We Are MA: Photography

Students on MA Photography at Norwich University of the Arts develop their work with a practice-led approach that incorporates taught components. Part time student Jo Lauren discusses her practice and the transition from BA to MA at NUA.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice?

My work often revolves around themes of place, memory and truth and considers how narrative and the imagination play a role in the interpretation of the photograph. An interest in ‘place’ being somewhere of significance and ‘space’ having not been previously experienced led me to question whether a photograph can have elements of both the familiar and the unfamiliar. In contemporary society, we become familiar with places we have never been to through imagery, and a world of ‘post-truth’ prevails. I am exploring whether the viewer creates their own understanding of and familiarity with locations which are presented in a semi-imagined way. 

After working on my project Mersea Island – a psycho geographic exploration of the place I have lived throughout my life – I have recently started exploring how place can be created through a series of photos. I am very much drawn to a dark atmosphere and the concept of ‘dystopia’ plays a role in the creation of my work.

Where do you find inspiration?

I take inspiration from sources such as Renaissance painting, contemporary photographers and film. The beautiful, atmospheric work of practitioners such as Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido merge with the melancholy sounds and words of Bears Den and Raymond Carver to inspire the dark and cinematic atmosphere in my own imagery.

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What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of your course so far?

I have really enjoyed having time to research and make the work I am interested in, with the support of tutors and peers from a range of subject backgrounds. It has been good to learn about the work of others, and how I can use these experiences to improve my own.

You completed your BA (Hons) Photography in 2018- how have you found the transition to MA?

The first unit of the MA involved engaging in more in depth research than I have previously done, which then formed a basis for creating work in the following units. This also involved workshops with students from other courses. It was interesting to see how other practitioners research, and how this can be applied to photography. I think this pushed my own work and inspired me to think in new ways, which I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of during my BA (Hons) Photography.

The MA is definitely a step up work-wise, however I have found studying part time to be perfect for me as this has allowed time to assist and engage with photographers in the industry alongside my studying.  

“NUA is a good place to make connections with other students and tutors, as well as those operating within the creative industry. “

Jo Lauren

You commute from Essex to Norwich, do you still feel connected to the MA community?

I generally only spend one day a week in Norwich however I still feel part of the creative community. NUA is a good place to make connections with other students and tutors, as well as those operating within the creative industry. Norwich is the type of place that supports the arts, so links between NUA and Norwich as a whole are really helpful when students want to push their work into the public. 

What do you hope to do when you finish your course?

I am really interested in the differences between the fine art and commercial photography industries, and whether my work could fit into both. I hope to use my experience assisting photographers in the commercial industry to continue with this when I finish my course, and work my way into doing my own photography here – perhaps in areas such as film and TV.

I also hope to exhibit my work more in future, continuing to create personal projects for this purpose. It would be great to show work in photography and fine art publications as well. The MA is particularly helpful with this side of things, because it has taught me about the importance of applying to different opportunities. For example, one of my prints was recently selected to be shown at the Atkinson Gallery Postgraduate Exhibition in Somerset. Without being on the MA course, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.

Having the time and freedom to work on my own work with guidance and suggestions from others within the university community is invaluable, and something I don’t feel would be possible without studying the MA course.

What advice do you have for someone who’s thinking about studying a Masters?

It is really about whether it feels right for you. I hadn’t even thought about doing a Masters until a tutor suggested it to me halfway through the third year of my BA. I felt as though I had just discovered my style and there was so much more personal work I wanted to make, whilst still having guidance within the university environment.

Qualifications are sometimes overlooked within the art world, but I am using it to develop my work to a better standard than it would have been if I hadn’t continued to study. Consider whether you want to study full time or part time, to allow for the option to work alongside studying.

See more of Jo’s work on Instagram

Find out about MA Photography