Ciara Leeming – MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography
Ciara Leeming studied MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography (online) at London College of Communication, graduating in 2011.
What made you choose the course?
I knew the full time version had a strong reputation, but the online version particularly attracted me because I wanted to study part time so I could maintain my existing business (I’ve been a print journalist for over 10 years and a freelance since 2006), plus I’m very settled where I live and not in a position to move to London to study. Online worked brilliantly for me and felt very natural since almost all freelance media work is commissioned and conducted remotely.
Where are you from in the world?
What was the last project you worked on?
An open-ended documentary project on the UK’s Roma migrants, which began as my MA major project and continues more than three years later. It has become a labour of love which I will probably never finish.
The work is produced in collaboration with the participants and tells people’s stories from their own perspective. I work slowly within families and develop relationships of trust. The research I did into visual sociology and anthropology during my MA course – on the suggestion of my tutor – directly influenced the shape of my work to come as I experimented with new interview techniques, some of which I continue to use.
The work has been funded to date by the Arts Council, Side Gallery, The Big Issue in the North Trust and the Lipman-Miliband Trust. Find out more about the project on The Roma Project site.
Please tell us about the approaches, techniques and tools, you use in your work.
My work combines photography with text and often audio and my projects generally focus on sensitive social issues and go on for many years. All of my work is journalistic in its intentions – the camera is just an additional tool – and my photography cannot be separated from the words which both anchor its meaning and provide vital context. I have produced books, websites, multimedia pieces and exhibitions, and my images frequently accompany pieces I write for newspapers and magazines.
Have you been part of any exhibitions recently?
Part of this work was exhibited at Side Gallery, Newcastle, in October-December 2013. The show, Stay Where There Are Songs, was the culmination of a commission from Side, which enabled me to spend 18 months working with a Czech Roma family in Middlesbrough – including two Christmases with them. The family came to see the show, which was lovely. We have become friends, and will continue to visit them and to document their integration into UK society.
What superpower would you have?
Stretching time. I have a habit of taking on far too much and under-estimating how long things take so this would be useful.
Tell us about your future plans and ambitions
I’m already working on the subjects I want to but funding them and striking the right balance between my independent (photography) work and my freelance writing is a challenge that I’d like to get better at. I’d also like to stop and appreciate where I’m at more and to stop wasting energy by stressing so much about things outside of my control
What did you enjoy most about LCC?
For me the most enjoyable thing was the critical feedback from tutors and classmates, which sent me in different directions with my research – and this in turn hugely influenced the way my practice developed. This is something I miss greatly since the course ended.
What piece of advice would you give to new students?
You get out of what you put in. Make the most of your time at university and of your teachers and classmates.
Three words: to best describe you
Confused & sceptical idealist
Is there anything else we should know about you?
I played lacrosse for Wales as a junior