Uninhabitable Photography with Olivia Bartlett
Fascinated by this work from UAL Extended Diploma Photography student Olivia Bartlett. Her self published book series entitled uninhabitable is not only an enterprising step in her professional career but an experimental exploration in to the effects of climate change. Her work considers the unknown and the yet unseen implications climate change might have on the planet in the future. We caught up with Olivia to find out more about her work and her camera-less photography approach. Read on to find out more:
Tell us about your photography book Uninhabitable?
My photographic book, Uninhabitable, is a series of three books that produced as my final piece for my final major project. My final major project focuses on the Anthropocene and the uncertainty of climate change by creating image that showcases unseen perspectives of landscapes. I was focused on pushing the boundaries of photography, so I opted to create imagery through various camera-less photographic processes.
The idea for my series of books came from my chemigrams that I experimented with as I didn’t have a way to present them in the final show due to the paper being light sensitive so I wanted to have a way people could view them. However, my idea for the zine was put into motion as I wanted a way to showcase all the images I created in my last final major project at college as a time capsule which I can look back on and through in the future. When it came to making the book, it was a relatively straightforward process as I made a book similar in my first year, so I used the same software, InDesign.
When it came to sequencing them, it wasn’t a painless process but as the image all abstract so they didn’t need to be in a particular order. I used a company called Mixam to print my photobooks as they have a high reputation among the photography community on Twitter and when it comes to publishing them, I did this independently over different social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter and as of 31st May I have sold 23 of my photobooks.
Tell us about your photography practice?
When it comes to my photographic practice, I mainly take inspiration from Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky’s work fascinates me, especially he aerial photographs purely because you don’t see that perspective often which is something I try and incorporate into my imagery. Outside of photography, I’m inspired by organic forms and texture within nature. Within my imagery, I am presenting unseen perspectives of landscapes and organisms which are not often visible to the naked eye. The theme within my work is located within the time of the Anthropocene which I am focusing on the uncertainty of climate change.
Which is further showcased through the uncontrollability of the chemicals and materials I use, again has a level of uncertainty to it as I have no idea what the final outcome will look like. My methods are located within fine art experimental photographic practices as I work with camera-less techniques which most of the time don’t involve the use of a camera. I work with a variety of varied materials from copper chloride to ink to laundry liquid and all my images are made within the darkroom.
Let us know about any projects you are also working on!
There is one project I am currently working on and even though I am using the same materials, the process of capturing the image is completely different. With all my previous work they have been done in the darkroom and enlarged onto photographic paper which involves chemicals that are dangerous to the environment so to reduce this my images are digitally captured. This allows me to capture the reaction between different coloured inks more than my darkroom work. With the materials I am using for this project, I am trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible but using art materials that are recyclable and don’t come in plastic. When it comes to the household chemicals that I use, I try to use ones that are eco-friendly and have a limited impact on the environment and once they have been used up, I will be refilling them at container refill shops to further minimise the amount of plastic I use within my artwork.
Tell us about your final show work?
For the work for my final show, I wanted to create a series of prints that were made from handmade negatives with art supplies and household substances. I then enlarged these negatives in the darkroom onto black and white photographic paper because I wanted the texture and detail to be the main focal point within the prints and I felt like having them in colour would shift this. The final layout is in a 6 by 11 print rectangular format with three inches between each once, so the final piece ends up being 53” x 120”. When it came to the presentation of the work, I wanted to create the illusion of one final image rather than 66 individual images to create an overwhelming and monumental feeling, so I painted the background black. It was vital when I was planning my final piece to consider the human experience and what they would feel when viewing the work. I wanted to create a sublime experience for the viewer which is defined as a mixture of emotions so not only do they feel overwhelmed and intimidated but also calmed and at ease.
What are your next steps after college?
My next step after college is to continue to explore and experiment with a variety of techniques and materials to see if I can further communicate the Anthropocene and the uncertainty of climate change. In September I will be starting my fine art degree at the Hartlepool campus to further expand my photographic practice into more a fine art practice. I will be doing this by exploring and expanding my knowledge and techniques within my 3D specialities such as sculptors, installation art and light installations. I also plan to produce more volumes within my uninhabitable series while working on professional progression within the creative art industry.
Why is The Northern School of Art special to you?
The Northern School of Art is special to me for a variety of reasons, and it has changed me as a person but for the better. Over the past two years, my knowledge of photography and different techniques have expanded massively in which I have been accepted into three exhibitions this year alone. The environment of the college is one of the main reasons my work and myself have grown exceptionally, as I not only feel safe but also accepted by the students and staff members. The technicians and lectures throughout my course have been very friendly and have allowed me to experiment with a wide range of materials, techniques, and processes even when they haven’t heard of it before or if they don’t see it as photography which in turn has created the artists that I am today.
They constantly pushed me to create work even when I didn’t like the outcomes while also reassuring me that my work is amazing and something to be proud of. The support I have received from my lectures and staff in the student services has been amazing, when I relapsed with my mental health at the beginning of year two, I always had someone to talk to whether that was my lecturer or student services, and they are the reason I am able to finish my last year because I wouldn’t have made it without them. The confidence that has grown within my work and myself has changed my career path as I want to pursue a professional career in the creative industry while also aiming to become a lecturer and hopefully teach at this institution.
Any advice for prospective students?
My main advice for prospective students is to not hold back throughout all the units that you do especially with your experimentations because you never know what you will produce and what the outcomes might lead you too. You need to use as much of the resources available to you no matter the course you are doing and to put forth your best effort into everything that you do as this will allow you to expand and explore your techniques, imagination and knowledge which will help you in your final major projects and in the future.
You can find see more of Olivias work online on her website and social media platforms:
Instagram – @Oliveiabartlett
Twitter – @Oliveiabartlett
Website – www.oliveiabartlett.com
If you are interested in photography we offer a fantastic UAL Extended Diploma in Photography that prepares students for a range of opportunities after finishing their diploma at our brand new campus on Newport Road!