1) Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your photographic background, has photography always been a passion of yours? 

I was given an Olympus OM10 for my 18thbirthday and that is where the passion for photography really began, shortly afterwards I saw the Josef Koudelka exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and I was captivated by the magical and ethereal quality of the Gypsies series, and the power of photography to communicate a story with such emotion, passion and power.I went on to study photography at Farnham in the early 80’s and was very much influenced by the documentary photography of that time (and earlier). We were fortunate to have photographers such as Martin Parr, Paul Graham and Peter Fraser teaching on the course, which had a strong documentary focus.

2) How would you describe your style of photography?

That’s difficult! After I graduated, I worked as a documentary photographer for a good few years, on personal projects as well as some commissions. I signed up for the MA Photography at LCC in 1999 which was when I first started working in colour and investigating other visual approaches to exploring and questioning the world around me. Work and other commitments meant that travelling far and wide to make projects became impractical and I turned my attention to making work ‘close to home’, exploring with my camera the everyday or the overlooked, in the places and people around me. I have since become very interested in our relationship with the land, how it is consistently bent to our service and how we constantly strive to control it, through farming, industry, horticulture, gardening … and the impact that these interventions have on our understanding of landscape and wilderness. Photographing in the landscape is my way of observing and exploring this relationship.

3) What photography equipment do you use, analogue/digital? Do you have a go-to camera?

Starting out in photography in the 1980’s, I grew up on analogue photography, I shot on medium format film for many years (Mamiya C220 and then a Mamiya 7), only getting my first digital camera in 2006. In 2014 I made my very first project using a digital SLR and interestingly many people think this work was shot on film. I think this is to do with the colour palette and the quietness of the compositions, which probably carried over from all the years of only having 10 frames on a roll of 120. To make ‘A Fluid Landscape’ I used a Sony A7r, I like to keep it simple, preferring to concentrate on the environment, the light and the image making, rather than the kit.

4) What artists and photographers have inspired you the most? Why?

I don’t know who inspires me the most, it constantly changes; Chris Killip, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, John Blakemore, Joel Meyowitz, Richard Misrach, William Eggleson, Mary Ellen Mark, Awoiska van de Molen, Jem Southam, Jitka Hanslova, they have all inspired me at different times and for different reasons, whether it be their connection and sensitivity to their subject, or the way that they employ light or colour to heighten emotion and engagement with the image.

5) In your most recent project A Fluid Landscape, you focus your camera on the Somerset Levels, what does this landscape mean to you? 

Following the winter floods in 2014, I drove to Somerset to see for myself; out of curiosity and a nebulous idea about photographing the effects of the flooding. Travelling around was difficult, many roads were closed and villages inaccessible. I spent the day stopping here and there, making some photographs. Looking back, this was the start of the project, a loose idea that led to a deepening fascination with this particular landscape. Later I heard someone on the radio describing how the ancient people of Somerset had adapted to living and surviving in flooded landscapes, the kind of conditions that we now see as threatening and disruptive. They were also describing an area of newly created saltmarsh on the Steart peninsula, reclaimed from farm land by making a breach in the sea wall, allowing a large area to flood at high tide. I was intrigued by the idea of a newly created landscape, and visited Steart Marshes, through changing seasons and at different states of the tide. I also began to research other areas of the levels such as Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor. The unique landscape of the Levels is directly related to the activities of the people who settled the land, controlling the water to benefit from the fertile pasture and gain access to the rich seams of peat. In recent years this land has, through various means, been returned to marsh, creating a ‘new’ ancient landscape of water filled rhynes, damp fens, wet fern woodland, salt marsh and open water fringed with reed beds. This was a landscape I was fascinated to explore and photograph and returned to again and again.

6) A Fluid Landscape was recently published with Another Place Press, was producing a photobook always your intention?

Photography is for me a way of exploring the world around me and my first instinct is to get out there and observe, without any preconceived ideas about the outcome.By the end of 2017, I had made many trips and many photographs of the landscape. I hadn’t shown the work anywhere but decided to enter a small selection to the Sony World Photography Awards, and I was shortlisted!  On the day of the announcement I was contacted by Iain Sarjeant at Another Place Press, to say he would be very interested in publishing the project as a small photobook. I carried on making work for the project, but I now had the focus of the book. Working with Iain to create an outcome for the work has been a valuable and insightful process, and I have learnt a huge amount about editing, sequencing, listening and sitting with the work and the process.

7) How different is your method when working on a commission to a personal project? 

The main difference for me is that on a commission you need to be able to interpret someone else’s ideas and judge expectations, and you have to come up with the goods, which can feel like a lot of pressure. This is a very different space to occupy than wandering the marshes, where if I don’t make any useful pictures that day, then it only matters to me and I can always go back. On a commercial shoot you need to be able to problem solve on the spot and deliver to a deadline, so you need to be able to adapt to work under that kind of pressure.

8) As a Senior Lecturer in Photography at UWE Bristol, I am sure you are often asked by young, aspiring photographers how to gain exposure in the industry, what piece of advice do you offer? 

Make the work that you want to make, be true and authentic and don’t try and fit in to a particular style that seems popular at a given moment. When you feel a project is ready, then put your work in front of people; develop a network on social media of people that support you and your work, apply to the opportunities and competitions that are free and relevant, as these can be good ways of gaining exposure and developing your network. We all fear rejection and that we might not be good enough, but if we don’t try we won’t know, I’ve found it’s worth taking the risk.

Amanda Harman

Amanda Harman is an award winning photographer, based in the South West of England.

She studied photography at West Surrey College of Art and Design and has an MA in Photography from London College of Communication. She has worked on a range of commissions, residencies and projects for galleries, museums, charities and commercial clients. Her work has been exhibited widely in the UK and internationally and is held in a number of collections, including the V & A, London. She is a Senior Lecturer in Photography at UWE Bristol.

Due to such high demand, unfortunately ‘A Fluid Landscape’ has sold out. However, make sure you continue to support the independent publishing company, ‘Another Place Press’, where you can purchase a range of wonderful photo-books, like Amanda’s.

https://anotherplacepress.bigcartel.com/products

Amanda Harman Photographer

http://www.amandaharman.co.uk/new-about

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amharmanphoto/?hl=en

Interview by Ella Cousins.

If you enjoyed this interview by Ella, check out another Collective interview with Photographer Guy Moreton: https://thesouthwestcollective.co.uk/guy-moreton-discusses-landscape-thought-and-his-methods-behind-picture-taking/