Feature: Q&A with… Becky Smith

Photographer Becky Smith talks to Lauren about her diverse and fascinating work. 

Becky Smith, 31, is from Burton On Trent and she will be starting her foundation degree in photography and digital imaging at Staffordshire University this September. She also works voluntarily as a support worker for young parents. In 2011 she won a merit award in the Fujifilm Student awards.

HM: How did you first get into photography?

BS: I have always been interested in photography but had my daughter quite young and became a full time mum. I now have 2 daughters but decided 2 years ago to return to college and try and make a career for myself and become a student again. I really thought it would be a strange experience being back at college with people a lot younger than myself but they were all fantastic and I have learnt so much and I have found something I am so passionate about. Not only that but I have seen myself grow as a person, become more confident and outgoing.

HM: What influences your work? Any particular photographers/artists?

BS: Absolutely everything inspires my work, from music to just walking through the streets. My eyes are constantly on stalks looking for new ideas. I really admire the work of Paulina Otylie Surys and Ellen Rogers as they use vintage cameras, darkroom techniques along with toners, dyes and other chemicals and it's so refreshing to see photographers and artists going back to this way of working. Their images always come across as hauntingly ethereal and this is what draws me to their work.

HM: What made you to decide to embark on a project based on the deeply personal and challenging subject of your father’s struggle with alcohol? Would you like to develop this series further, and if so, how?

BS: Originally this project was an assignment for college, we had to publish our own book. At first I was going to a project on street photography but sitting back I thought to myself, "hey, I want a challenge here". After reading an article in a magazine about a student doing a similar project with her ill mother I decided to pluck up the courage and go for it. My father was completely happy for me to do this and we decided to spend an hour a day together. I also gave him a diary so he could write down all of his thoughts and feelings, no matter how dark or upsetting they were.

There were days when I questioned where I should carry this project on. At the time it was about trying to mend our father/daughter relationship but I also wanted people to see that addicts were also human beings and that it could easily happen to you or I. 

I also wanted people to see from my fathers point of view, what goes through his head day to day. Some of the images came out quite dark and haunting but that is where alcohol takes my father and there is one image especially like this which I took after we had spoken about why he had tried to take his life the year before.

There is only one copy of the book so far but I would look to further the project somehow, maybe even get it published.

HM: You received a Fujifilm award in 2011. What was this for?

BS: I received the award for submitting the image "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind" which is a Ghandi quote. The theme for the Fuji Student award was "Senses" and for the image I wanted to take the models eyes out and cover him in handprints to make the photograph a little more shocking and slightly disturbing.

HM: At the moment, you seem to be exploring fashion, documentary and art in your photography. Can you see yourself going down either one route or the other, or will you continue to work on all genres? Which do you prefer and why?

BS: I don't think I could ever just choose one route. I love exploring a multitude of things, finding my feet and particular style. I am just discovering my love of fashion and trying to incorporate that within my images, I'm always visiting second hand shops and even car boot sales just to find that one unique piece that will stand out. 

It’s still very early in my photography career but I do know one thing for certain- I have a passion for portraits and people. People are just the most amazing creatures, every person is different and everybody has a story to tell and as a photographer I love bringing that out within a portrait. 

HM: Your jewellery collection is wonderful, how did that develop?

BS: My collection came about when I had the idea of incorporating my images into jewellery. I have so many ideas, most of them ridiculous! But somehow when I had the idea of using street art and antique style jewellery settings it just seemed to work. I call it "Antique Graffiti Fusion" and it's been described as "Interesting" and "Unique" so I'll take that as a compliment! But again it is definitely another project I would love to get off the ground.

HM: What’s the next step for you and your photography? How would you like to develop your work in the future?

BS: I start university in September and I really can't wait for all the new and exciting challenges that it brings. I am also hoping to build up my own small business offering different kind of portraits to people, working away from the studio more and on beautiful locations chosen by clients.

You can find out more about Becky and view her work on her website and on her online portfolio site.

Tags:  Becky Smith Derbyshire Creative Photography Documentary street photography Fashion

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