CAMERA CLUB: Through the lens with Amber Brown

Amber Brown is a Northumbrian Photographer, Printmaker & aspiring curator. Having graduated with a First-Class Degree in Photography at the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art, she’s back to the North East, pursuing an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at Newcastle University.

“I volunteered as a photographer when studying at DCHS in Alnwick, photographing the Alnwick Music Festival and school plays. Torn between studying Fine Art and Photography, my choice was cemented by how much I enjoyed discovering contemporary photographers on the Photography A-Level.” Her influences include John Kippin, Tish Murtha and Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.

Exploring notions of place, home and belonging, Amber’s photography includes both colour and black and white film. “I use large format photography, printmaking and traditional darkroom processes for investigating the industrial and man-altered landscape, exploring the idea of Northernness and discovering how archives can interact with the contemporary.

“Much of my work stems from family history, our personal connections to land or the history of a

specific piece of land. My last few projects looked at housing developments in Amble – where archives and planning documents played a large part – and Northumbrian allotments.”

Her graduate project centred around The Northern coal mining landscape. “‘It Must Be Somewhere Here’ began with a fascination with Woodhorn Colliery and researching my family history, where both my grandfathers were miners.

“In this project, I’m using quite labour-intensive techniques, documenting and manipulating my own images of the landscapes. Large format photography alone is somewhat meditational, in the control and precision that comes with having a small amount of shots to expose. Similar to the romantic element of working in a darkroom, I find peace in a print studio. It’s a physical process but also very satisfying. This marriage of printmaking and photography runs through my practice, emphasising the very textural, overgrown landscapes which I capture. This combination of techniques aims to introduce a timelessness, so it’s hard to tell if it is a photograph or not, and whether it was taken 100 years ago or now.”

So far, the project has taken about a year but Amber plans to extend it, developing various mediums. She envisages a book, larger scale colour prints and smaller printmaking works, and

maybe even audio or text to create a multimedia solo show.

I asked about Art School and what she would say to prospective students. “I think there is often a very cynical, cautious attitude around going to art school. I can’t count the amount of times people would make fun of the career choice, or asking, ‘Well, what will you do with that?’ The truth is, you can do so much with it. If you’re considering a future in the creative sector, go for it! Though I would urge picking a course that also has a focus on professional development and the business aspects of being an artist, like writing funding applications.

Amber also collaborates with other artists. “It is an important skill – finding a key group of people that you work well with can unleash so many opportunities. With the absence of a physical degree show due to COVID-19, I’ve been involved in leading a non-profit arts collective called ALT-D which you can find online.”

You can view Amber’s work on her website, www.amberbrownphoto.com and @amberbrownphotography on Instagram. You can also find it at streetlevelphotoworks.org, a photography gallery in Glasgow who host a yearly ‘Futureproof’ exhibition of selected graduate photographers across Scotland. “My joint online exhibition with Northumbrian artist Almudena Rocca at the Playhouse Gallery has finished, but we hope to be back for a physical show in the future.”