Re-telling family history through photographs
For Photography Studies College (PSC) student Conor McCaul, photography has always been a way of exploring the unnoticed and telling a story.
It was what led him into the practice during lockdowns, and what has continued to inspire him through his final year as he works on his year-long project.
“I [have] always loved movies and the stories they told, but never had the patience or concentration to make something longform, so I figured photography would be the next best thing, but then as I did it, I found I enjoyed it a lot more,” he told Southbank News.
For Conor’s project, which will be shown at the end-of-year exhibition, he is focusing on the objects, personality traits, or religions people inherit from their families.
Working on this project and topic has allowed him to re-tell some of the deeper, more personal journeys that some families go through.
“A friend of mine has tattoos of their relatives’ handwriting as their relatives have a neurological disease, which means their handwriting is getting messier and messier, so what my friend did is they got the words ‘I love you’ from their relatives and got them tattooed to give them a permanence,” he said.
“And, it’s this sentiment and the story behind it that I really quite enjoy.”
As well as getting the chance to tell poignant stories through his photography, Conor also got to live through a “pinch me” moment when, through PSC, as he was one of the students who recently visited Osaka.
PSC has a partnership with UEDA, which is an Osaka-based fashion school and, during the few weeks he was in Japan, Conor was able to collaborate with fashion styling students.
“If I told first-year me that I would go to Osaka and meet all these people and take photos, I probably wouldn’t have believed myself,” he said.
As soon as I got there, everything felt right. I was able to meet new people and connect with them, and even with the language barrier you could feel a sense of everyone trying to work towards the same thing.
This international opportunity has “opened up a door” for Conor that he didn’t know he was originally interested in, and now he is feeling more inspired to achieve his dreams of working with magazines, becoming a published artist, and continuing to make more photo books.
“As time has progressed [at PSC], processes that I thought would be hard have become easier and boosted my confidence, and now I trust myself to do the process and have realised my identity in photography,” Conor said.
“There is also a community here and it is very important in photography to know people and to have friends in the industry.”
As Conor continues to work on his final project, he is also asking people to reach out to him personally so he can help to tell more stories surrounding what different families inherit and their significance. •