Star-Struck in Belfast

It’s not everyday that you meet a celebrity. But for me, it happens nearly every Thursday in my photography MFA course at the University of Ulster’s Belfast campus. The world of photography is an interesting one. The fame tethered to success becomes associated with the images you create rather than with your face or image as a person. When was the last time you saw a photographer’s face splashed across the pages of a tabloid? Of course, famous photographers are esteemed and lauded, but it is their work that becomes known, not the face. If I passed one of my favorite photographers on the street, I might not even know it.

Our first visiting lecturer, Martin Parr, is a huge name in photography.  When I think of Parr, I think mainly of these two images taken as a part of his series “The Last Resort”:

Parr is a noticeable exception to the incognito photographer rule. I knew what he looked like before I sat, slightly star-struck in the university lecture theater, listening to him talk about his photography practice. He is featured in many of his own photographs, usually in a funny, slightly jarring way.  Take for example, “Autoportrait (2000), a collection he’s assembled during years of traveling by having his photo taken in various tourist photography studios.

Following the talk, we got the chance to sit in on a critique given by Parr of the work of the second-year MFA photography students. It was equal parts exciting and terrifying, knowing that I will be in a similar position this time next year.

Another guest photography lecturer, Gareth McConnell, was personally very exciting for me to meet and learn from. For the past several years, I have been obsessed with his series “Meditations,” and it is this series of images, taken of a bed, that I think of when I hear his name:

His recent work also features beautiful, dramatic shots of flowers at night, images that remind me vividly of my experience last year photographing cherry blossoms in Japan.  This is an image from McConnell’s series “Night Flowers”:

McConnell was engaging, funny, and sincere, and I really enjoyed listening to him speak about his work, about the practicalities of  being a working photographer, and about his experiences growing up in Northern Ireland.

Most recently, we were visited by the American photographer Doug DuBois, who I associate with this image from his book All the Days and Nights:

DuBois has been working for the past several years on the island of Ireland, so it was interesting for me to see an American photographer working with  the Irish landscape. He gave us a unique and thorough look at his work in progress and spoke of the many decisions that play a role in his work.

The first two months of my course have already brought so much excitement and inspiration that I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.

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