Interview: Anna Ward

Anna is currently studying Italian and French in Cambridge. She has always had an interest with photography and currently does this in her own time. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Anna about her photography work and career plans.

Hello Anna! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

I’m good thank you! It’s lovely to be speaking to you!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I’m Anna, 19 years old and I’m a student from York. I’m currently studying French and Italian at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and I’ve fallen in love with my new town! I started photography seriously when I studied it for A Level back home in York. I absolutely adore it, and now I’m at University I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities to develop my work as I’ve met so many talented people!

Describe your style in three words.

Quirky, Pretty, Precise — I like to create images that are beautiful and I think everyone will enjoy, but I’m definitely a perfectionist when it comes to my work.

I adore your work. What inspired you to start taking photographs?

I’ve always loved taking photos! Although when I was around fourteen my Dad bought me a little 35mm camera from a car boot sale - I just adore antiques and vintage items so I fell in love with it, and I started to collect vintage cameras and I’d take them everywhere I went! When I got the opportunity to study photography it was an absolute dream come true, and I think that’s when I started to take photography more seriously as a creative art, instead of just taking snaps when I was out and about!

Have you always been into photography?

I’m studying French and Italian at university, which I definitely think was inspired by my love of travelling. I’ve always loved to keep scrapbooks whenever I travel, I’ve been making them for as long as I can remember and I think photographs are always a fabulous way to document a trip and can hold lovely memories!

How has your creative process changed since the start?

When I first started I knew pretty much nothing about the technicalities of photography, so I would just photograph things I found pretty, without any consideration for composition and lighting.  Since I’ve studied photography I find that everywhere I go I look at things and immediately think of how I would light an image, what lens I would use etc, and often I find myself fascinated with things that people wouldn't ordinarily notice — I like my photographs to be unique and make the everyday exciting!

What equipment do you use for your work?

I mostly use a Canon EOS 1100D DSLR — I’ve had it since sixth form and although it’s not the most high tech, it’s pretty trustworthy, and I think once you’ve found a camera you like then you get pretty attached to it! For film photography I have a few favourites — I have a brilliant Zenith SLR which my friend brought me from Russia, as well as a little Kodak Coloursnap 35mm which is a great everyday sort of camera.

What equipment could you not live without?

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of theatre photography, and also photographing balls and parties at university, and I couldn’t do it without my studio flash and soft-box! For my abstract and still life work I would never dream of using a flash, especially not a built in one, but at balls and in theatres, where the light can be pretty dramatic, it’s always nice to be in control, and a powerful flash can really help with that!

When did you start getting into film photography?

As I mentioned before, I started film photography when my Dad bought me my first 35mm camera! I loved it so much that I think my vintage camera obsession has gotten a little out of hand- I’ve got a collection of around 30 cameras now!

How do you develop your film photographs?

At sixth form I would develop them in the dark room - it was so great to work in and I also loved making photograms! Sadly my college darkroom at university is out of order, so in the meantime, I’m having to send off my films to be processed. We’ve been campaigning to get our dark room reopened though, so I can’t wait to get developing again! I also got a full darkroom kit for £5 from a car boot sale though, so I’m hoping to try setting that up in our utility room!

How do you go about taking your film photography and photography?

I love to be in control of absolutely everything when I’m taking photos — I love weird abstract photos and I like to do a lot of quirky still life things. It’s great being able to arrange everything exactly where you want it and control all the lights etc. Because of this I loved working in the studio we had at school, I’d spend hours in there working on a shoot just to get it absolutely perfect!

For your film photography do you think carefully about the clothing, setting and models?

Absolutely! With film photos theres no opportunity to touch it up on Photoshop after, so everything needs to be perfect! I don’t very often work with models (I prefer still life) but when I do, clothing is very important!

Do you prefer film photography or DSLR?

I honestly don’t think I could choose! I love how precise you can be with a DSLR, you can so easily control every single aspect of the camera, but I love the raw unedited quality of film photographs: the colours created by film are just gorgeous!

What equipment would you recommend for someone who wants to get into photography?

My main advice would be just get yourself a fairly decent camera, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and get taking photos! You can invest in more expensive and fancy equipment as you progress, all you need is a passion for photography!

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

It’s a brilliant way to get my photography noticed — I’ve always loved Instagram (@an_award) and I can use that so easily for little snaps I take on my iPhone, as well as showing some of my more creative work! I also have a little photo blog (thereisalightthatnevergoesout.vsco.co) and my photography page (www.facebook.com/annawardphotography/) has been so helpful as I’ve been working as a theatre and events photographer at university, and it’s amazing how many people know my work because of that!

 Who inspires your work?

I love a lot of different photographers, but if I had to pick then I’d say my favourite is Man Ray; I did a project on his work at sixth form and his darkroom techniques absolutely astonish me! I also had the opportunity to work with photographer Bex Day, modelling for a fashion shoot for her. She edits PYLOT magazine, which is entirely non-retouched film photography, and it was so exciting to be involved in a project like that!

Why is photography important?

Because of technology, we’re surrounded by photos all the time on social media etc. I really want to create something that stands out from the endless selfies on Instagram; Photography is an art form and I want to keep it this way! I love that photography is so widespread and easily available to everyone, but I want to maintain the beauty of it!

What makes a good photograph?

I don’t think there’s a definitive answer. Art is something that is free to interpretation, but I think if someone enjoys a photo, it’s aesthetically pleasing and it makes them smile, or is thought provoking, then the photographer has succeeded.

Do you have any favourite pieces of photography that you adore at the moment?

I recently saw a fab exhibition of Stephen Shore’s work in Amsterdam. His American Surfaces series is so so good! I just love going to photography galleries, you can discover so many wonderful artists!

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page?

I really want to take the time to explore Cambridge more! It’s an incredibly beautiful and photogenic city, and I imagine you’ll be seeing a lot more photos from my adventures there! Even the view from my window is amazing so I’m taking photos all the time!

Do you have any career plans?

I’m currently at university, I should graduate in 4 years time and I’m hoping to focus more on my photography work after that! Sadly at the moment illness and the hectic life of being a Cambridge student mean my photography has taken a back seat, but I’m hoping to study photography during my year abroad, and hopefully that’ll lead to more opportunities, as I’d love to work as a photographer in France or Italy.

Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to set up their own Facebook page or Instagram?

Just do it! It’s really not difficult to do, and you can devote as mush or as little time to it as you like! Sadly, my page has been a little neglected recently, but I’m hoping to focus on my photo work a little more over Christmas, as I have a 6 week break from university. Instagram is great though because it’s so easy to do when you’re out and about, it’s definitely my favourite social media platform.

Do you have any advice for photographers?

This is so difficult! I think the important thing is to find your own style - never stop experimenting, as you can always learn something new!

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into film photography?

There’s no need to spend tonnes of money on expensive equipment! Yes, you can get some marvellous cameras, but some of my favourite film cameras have cost me around £5 - it’s a really accessible hobby and so easy to get started on if you know where to look for cameras.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

My photography teacher at school would always tell me to nurture my perfectionism — I’m someone who won’t stop until I’m completely happy with something, and he would always encourage me to keep going and improve my photos. I think this made me more determined, as I am always thinking about how I can get better, and I think it really helped me to develop my work, even if sometimes I was so mad at him for telling me to redo things again and again!

Please follow Anna on Facebook ‘www.facebook.com/annawardphotography’ and her Instagram ‘@an_award’. She is constantly posting updates of her photography work and interest in vintage.