Adam Patterson – MA Photojournalism & Documentary Photography

Adam Patterson graduated from London College of Communication (LCC) with an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography in 2008. His work has been exhibited at the Noorderlicht Photofestival 2009, Royal Photographic Society and Foto8's Summer show, and published in newspapers and magazines such as The Sunday Times, The Independent and Vice.

Can you describe the experience of going to Chile? 

It's a difficult thing to fully digest. The whole experience was incomparable to anything I have worked on or even seen before - it was like a perfectly scripted Hollywood blockbuster; seething with tension, drama and unpredictability. I was lucky enough to get thrown right into the thick of it, working with the families and sharing their journey - many of these moments I will never forget.

Do you have plans to go back?

There is the possibility of doing a follow up, perhaps with the BBC or maybe alone but it will be a little further down the line. Presently I am focusing on a project in my native Northern Ireland, which I put on hold for Chile and with commission deadlines fast approaching it's important I stay local for now.

Before studying at LCC, what was your background in?

Pre-LCC I shared a path trodden by many potential snappers, writers and seekers - one of working random jobs for cash and then using the profits to fund and satisfy personal curiosities and projects about how the world works, how society functions. I spent many years like this during which my direction shifted slightly as I learnt about the realities of this trade, overcoming hardships and learning to utilise time, the most important tool of all.

What made you choose to study MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography?

I found I was beginning to compile bodies of work I felt worthy of publications, photographic narratives I was happy with. The problem was I had no idea of how to get anything published and based in remote Ireland I felt lost and disillusioned. The LCC MA Photojournalism and Documentary course has a great reputation and I noticed previous students' names repeatedly winning respected grants and awards. I applied for the course in late 2006 and was offered a place for the following year starting in 2008. At the time I remember thinking it was a lifetime to wait but my developments in the year prior to the course enabled me to get a lot more from the degree.

Can you describe your experience of being at LCC?

I was part of the LCC but with an MA it's more like being a part of a smaller family - 22 like-minded people with varied opinions and experiences. Our class grew very close and that foundation gave a lot of people the confidence to explore photography and how it might work for them. I got a postgraduate grant from the Royal Photographic Society, which helped take pressure off and allowed me to spend more time shooting - this was essential with the projects on squatters and gangs that I undertook.

What were you working on before being asked to work with Panorama?

Since LCC I spent a few months scrapping for jobs in London before leaving to go back to Ireland - I wanted to do some work closer to home and I knew it would be much easier to pursue a new long-term project without the costs of London life. I have had some projects commissioned for magazines and I began to get some PR jobs and annual report work for organisations, which helped pay bills. The gang work I did for my final project travelled to the Noorderlicht Photofestival in the Netherlands and I got some attention from that - being invited for workshops, interviewed and published across Europe. Since then I've started to get some portrait commissions from more prominent British magazines. I have also secured support for my work here in Northern Ireland from the Arts Council and a couple of galleries.

The still photography you produced in Chile varies from documentary to portraiture, impartial observer to confidante - in a way - which was your favourite way of working and why?

I had very little time to shoot stills in Chile, as I was shooting moving image and assistant producing the documentary. Luckily the producer is a very progressive and inventive guy. He has used my stills in previous Panoramas and thus I was given the time to do portraiture amid a completely hectic working schedule. Any spare moments through the day I grabbed some stills of life in the camp, but it was difficult at times too see stills moments pass when filming and I had to accept it.

Has the experience changed your career prospects?

Not really. I think today realistically you have to be as diverse as possible if you want to survive. I love stills but a narrative can be limited by stills alone, which is why video, sound, text and anything else can add layers of information and context. My work is very collaborative anyway and I use a lot of different material, so I am excited by a future more open to a mixed media message. Print is in obvious decline but other avenues are opening and it's important to reach out to as many as possible.

Ambitions for the future/dream project?

My current work in Northern Ireland now makes sense to me. I needed to come home after years of chasing things I knew little about. It has been a tough struggle here to open things up but the project is really coming alive now and it's exciting. A lot of photographers speculate about the difficulties of shooting normality of your own backyard. I can understand this, but I feel I have broken through. My aim is to produce a book that will drive an honest statement about the transition of this country today and I believe I have met some people who can help me do this. 


Visit Adam's website