This year, Angela Dennis won first place in the International Photography Awards in the still life category for the above photo. When not shooting her personal work, she also assists for renowned photographer Andy Barter. (I must mention that she is also very good at suggesting awesome nights out in London.) In what free time she has left, Angela very kindly agreed to spend some of her Sunday answering my questions about the world of flash.
The Wonder: Angela!!
Angela Dennis: Hellooooooo!
TW: how are you?
AD: I’m good thanks, just enjoying a lazy quiet Sunday.
TW: i love Sundays
TW: so are you ready for your interview?!
AD: ready ready
TW: so, what made you want to be a photographer?
AD: Some of my earliest memories involved taking pictures… buying throwaway cameras and marvelling at my mum and Dad’s mini collection of compact 35mm cameras (I have since as an adult discovered they were merely a collection of inferior compacts that had broken down over the years and not been thrown out!)
But the real ‘epiphany’ moment came on a work experience week at school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and so I chose two very random, different placements: one was at a Biology department at a university- for some reason they gave me an SLR to go out and play with. I shot a roll, processed and printed them myself in that week and it just felt right, I had a great sense of pride in what I had accomplished! So that was what really opened my eyes to photography as a subject.
TW: wow, sounds like it was, dare i say it, fate. Did you become obsessed with all things photography after the work experience?
AD: Ha! I am not so daring… I definitely got into a photography course as soon as I could, and I had to have a lot of discussions with my parents where I basically had to charm and convince them that I needed a proper camera, and that it wouldn’t be a total waste of money. Coming from quite a humble background an SLR is quite a hefty Christmas present for a 15 year-old kid! I was obsessed with Art, I didn’t know any photographers then per se, but photography was a medium.
TW: so if it’s a medium, what are you trying to say or see being that it’s photography?
AD: I’m not sure how to verbalise what I photograph! That sounds like a real weasel answer But I do believe that like some, I am most creative when I can’t verbalise what it is I am trying to create, you just have a desire to see something. It is only afterwards when it is out of your head onto paper or on screen that you can analyse it and draw conclusions from it. And more often than not it will reflect a feeling of that time, a desire, or an emotion you have related to a particular subject.
TW: how was it for you studying photography full time at art school? did things just click then like with your work experience?
AD: I very much enjoyed it and I’m glad I took the leap to do it full time as I was initially thinking of doing an Art foundation course. At that stage though you are still just learning technical stuff (well actually I’m still learning that! Always learning…), like camera systems, film, Schiemflug! It was better when I got to Uni because it became more about what you wanted to say, appreciating it as an art form and becoming a critical thinker. It basically for me, returned to art and became even more interesting. I would never say that it always just felt right because that would be a lie. I don’t think anyone feels like that 100% of the time, and as with anything where you are trying to be good at it, it’s bloody hard work!
TW: which photographers were you drawn to at school?
AD: Probably at that time I would have liked the work of Man Ray for his Photograms and Phillippe Halsman. But in general I probably looked more towards painters and sculpters than photographers. I loved Halsman’s ‘Jump portraits and his collaborations with Dali. I still love them.
TW: [a quick google later] yes, those Halsman’s photos are fascinating! And Man Ray…[another swift google] ah, so he didn’t use a camera for his ‘photogams‘, but placed objects on photo sensitive paper.
AD: That’s right.
TW: it’s been a while since you graduated. are you still drawn to the work of sculpters and painters in your personal work?
AD: Yes I still like to visit galleries and check out exhibitions for inspiration. All mediums welcome!
TW: It’s great you don’t limit your inspiration, it’ll make for more interesting photos! What inspired your award winning photos?
AD: I have always loved hair dress and styling, and I have taken a particular interest at the moment in hair artificiality. I wanted to create some considered still lifes, something I’d not really done before till then.
TW: what i liked is that you brought a newness to them. they seemed strange even though i’d seen those hair types before.
TW: you’re welcome! any ideas for future projects or are you keeping that under wraps?
AD: Ha! I would like to do some portraits, though that might also have something to do with hair… Watch this space! I do have a reputation to maintain now
TW: that is true! You’re very busy, apart from your personal work, you assist for Andy Barter. How’s that been? Did you admire his work before you applied for the position?
AD: Working for Andy has pretty much taken over my life for the past two years! However he has been an incredible mentor and (I think) we have a great relationship. I did indeed admire his work before and hopefully some of his skills will have rubbed off on me a little.
TW: are there any particular jobs with Andy you’ve really enjoyed doing? or faraway locations you’ve gone to for a shoot? I hear the life of a photographer can be pretty glamorous!
AD: I have been fortunate to travel with Andy a bit… We went to Argentina this year, and we have also worked in Holland and Switzerland. I get to see some very expensive things that I will most likely never own. Although that sort of thing doesn’t really appeal to me greatly, but it’s interesting to see how the other half live.
TW: do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
AD: When you ‘ve finished studying (or during is even better) start assisting a photographer. Be humble, hard working, and perfect your tea making skills! And of course keep taking your own pictures.
TW: thanks for that Angela!
AD: Thanks, and it was a pleasure!
Below is some of Angela’s work. To see more, head over to her website www.angela-dennis.com