1. What is your background as a photographer? How do you think your experience studying Photojournalism and Documentary Photography has influenced your approach to photography?

I think my journey with photography really started when I dedicated a year to volunteering and travelling just after graduating high school. My dad is a hobby photographer, so I have been surrounded by the medium my entire life. I think the spark that made me decide to focus my career on photography came when I was volunteering in South Africa at a photography and conservation program. I realized that my images could encourage positive change and that I could really have an impact on a certain area and thus I decided to give the PJD course at The University of Gloucestershire ago. I can honestly say that the course itself has really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to shoot projects that I am actually passionate about. Through the PJD course, I have started to develop a much broader appreciation of the medium and I really got a grasp of the countless possibilities it offers.

2. The work featured here focuses on a group called Extinction Rebellion – tell us a bit more about the images.

I shot the following images on three different occasions. The colour protest images are shot at the ‘Blood of our Children’ march which took place in London in March, 2019. It was the first protest I had attended, and I was still figuring out what exactly it was that I wanted to capture in my images. The other colour images were photographed in Bristol, where some of the rebels got together to paint the streets. Lastly, I shot the black and white images on film during Rebellion Week in London in April. By that time, I had already gotten to know quite a few members of XR Bristol and my project had started to take shape. My focus throughout this project was to document the community and individuals in the XR community, highlighting them as a peaceful community which focuses on many different events to raise awareness of an issue that we should all be taking much more seriously. I wanted to achieve this mainly through portraiture, whilst also using the classic protest imagery to provide further context.

extinction rebellion protest London the south west collective of photography

3. What is your relationship with XR and how did these events become an area of interest for you?

The first time I had heard of XR was through Jack Harries, a documentary filmmaker and activist who uses social media to raise awareness of issues like climate change. This was back in December 2018, following XR’s first big protest in London. I myself have always been passionate about the environment and conservation and always try to focus my projects around his theme as I believe we need to raise as much awareness of climate change and the issues surrounding it, encouraging people to act. For our second semester, one of our briefs required us to create a series of work focused on sustainable communities. After researching a range of options like wildlife welfare and nature conservation, XR came to mind. At that time, the closest XR group was Bristol, where they held weekly socials and thus, I decided to get involved with XR events and joining a few protests. I wanted to let everyone know that I was happy to support their cause and that I wanted to get to know individuals within the community rather than having a more typical photojournalistic approach, photographing as an outsider.

4. What, if any challenges did you face while shooting events which had become so prominent in the public eye? What would advice would you give to photographers wanting to shoot events like these?

I think the biggest challenge I faced overall was one with myself. As much as I support them and agree with their cause, to some extent I still had to try and stay objective and honest when documenting their actions. I also had to decide whether or not I stand alongside the rest of the media, shooting as an outsider or do I get involved and create more interesting images while risking possible arrest.

The most important thing I have learnt from shooting these events is to not hold back – if you see a shot do not be afraid to take it. Especially, with portraiture, go up to people and ask for their photograph. People are out on the streets for a reason and are happy to put themselves out there to gain attention for what they believe in. Another thing is to think outside the box. Be more creative when shooting news and events. If you see 10 other photographers crowding around the same spot because they think that it’s the best angle, think about how you can use your photography to create a fresh perspective, with images that really stand out.

5. How are you hoping to continue to develop your ideas as a photographer? Any future projects in the pipeline?

The last two years have made me realize that I want to continue my project focus on the environment. I have especially become interested in wildlife conservation, whether it’s local wildlife in the UK or international species. I don’t have any concrete plans for my next project, however, now that I have found my overall direction, I have a lot of ideas on how I can use my photographs to create a positive impact on conservation and other environmental issues.

Miriam Hauertmann

Photographer

https://www.miriamhauertmann.com/

Instagram: @miriamhauertmann

Interview by Collective Team member, Lou-Marí Basson

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