Artist talk with Bronia Stewart

On Tuesday we had another artist lecture from Edinburgh based photographer Bronia Stewart, she started her photography journey when she did a 6 month course which she described as being more practical than creative. She built up her experience while assisting other photographers for 2 years, while doing this she developed an interest in film photography. After this she moved onto full time work as she found assisting to be too unstable, while working full time this allowed her to fund her project for her MA which lead to her going freelance. She also does commercial work to give her the funds and freedom to be able to create personal projects.

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  • Image from ‘Essex’ by Bronia Stewart; source

Bronia explained to us how she creates her photos with the distinct aesthetic and some of the difficulties that she comes across from being a documentary photographer. Her photos are all captured using an on camera speedlight to create a hard light effect on the subjects, it is also very practical for her when working in a faced paced environment. She told us it is important knowing how to protect your images, when photographing people she said that you have to be open and honest about what you’re photographing but not to give too much away; “be careful – but not too careful”. To help with this honesty that she applies to her work she shows subjects her work as she goes along. She told us how with photographing documentary it is hard to explain right away what you’re trying to do with a project and sometimes the aim of the project becomes clear along the way or at the end of shooting. Bronia sets her self self-imposed deadlines for her work; which I found to be very useful and something I will start to apply myself.

Babe Station was her first project which she did for her MA and it was shown at the Photographers Gallery in London which was then printed in various newspapers such as the Sunday Times and it was also the My Best Shot in the Guardian. This project lead her onto her Essex project when she wanted to carry on exploring women who were influenced by media and wanted careers that followed that influence from the media and so she looked into magazines and reality TV such as ITV show The Only Way Is Essex. She looked at the young girls who would be unpaid extras on the show but the producers wouldn’t give her access to this so sometimes she would go in as an extra herself just to get into the scene. Bronia said that when she was working on these types of projects she wanted to take a non-judgemental view on the environments she was in and people she was with. So she developed a friendship with her subjects and this lead her to get an understanding behind why they were in the situations she was in such as Babe station.

She told us about her current project that she is working on in Edinburgh about the rich/poor divide, Bronia is trying to get in with the richest and the poorest schools in Edinburgh to follow the lives of potentially two girls from each and look at their lives and families and how they differ.

Overall from Bronia’s talk I took a lot of inspiration from how she formed relationships with her clients to create a relaxed and non-judgemental take on the projects she worked on.

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