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Meet: Celine Marchbank

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Published date 24 February 2016

Celine Marchbank studied MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication, graduating in 2010.  Find out more about how her photography helped her cope with the tragic passing of her mother due to cancer, with the prize-winning Tulip Project.

Celine Marchbank

Celine Marchbank

I had obviously heard of LCC’s good reputation in the photography world when I decided to apply for the MA Photojournalism & Documentary Photography course. I did worry that my work was neither photojournalism nor documentary, but I was accepted straight away to the course after my interview. My tutors obviously saw something in my work I hadn’t yet.

Just before I joined the MA course my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I decided I still really wanted to do the course, I hoped it would take my mind off what was happening at home.


As her mobility declines Mum stays in her room more and more. Her windowsill becomes a substitute for the garden.

I really enjoyed my time at LCC, there is something quite lovely about the MA course; a room full of interesting, engaged, open and friendly people who love the same things as you. You get to know the people quickly, and we all supported each other, it helped me get through that terrible year.

I’m from Camden Town in North London. South London was rather new for me then, but I’ve ended up buying a house in nearby Peckham, so it must have worked its magic on me.

I love the array of such different art that exists in London; you can see so many different types at any one time. I take much more inspiration from abstract painting and sculpture rather than photography. It’s amazing how much creative talent there is in London, but I worry a lot about the gentrification of our city, forcing out the people who made London great in the first place.


Photography really helped me to get over the death of my mother. Doing the project about her last year gave me something to work on, and after her death I continued to take photos and started a new project about her. My project Tulip was received so well by people and started to have a life of its own. It was shortlisted for major photography prizes and exhibited widely, after this I started to receive messages from people all over the world who had been through the same experience, it made me feel not so alone. Grief is very isolating, and through photography I could connect with total strangers across the world.

I met my best friend on the course and I know we will be friends for life. She has been a great support; she’s always there to go over a last minute edit or written proposal late at night! I also remain good friends with many of the other people on the course, and have exhibited and worked on other projects with them. I have also become good friends with many other graduates from the other years of the course; as a graduate of UAL, you join a community.


30th September. One year since Mum was diagnosed. Her condition has deteriorated and she’s been admitted to the Marie Curie hospice for two week’s respite care. I worry looking at her empty bed, will she ever come home?

I love abstract work, my all-time favourite would have to be Mark Rothko. How he manages to get so much emotion on one canvas never fails to amaze me. I love art that shows emotion, I want to feel something when I look at it.  I’m not interested in smart, clever or complicated art – I like bold simple art that knows what it’s about and just says it.

I’m also obsessed with negative space, I try to use it well in my images, maybe because I come from a graphic design background. To me the space around things is as important as the subject. I also love photography about small stories. I absolutely love Leonie Hampton’s In the Shadow of Things. It’s beautiful, and her project inspired me so much when I was doing my Tulip project.


Tulip. My Mother’s favourite flower

My Tulip project has just been published into a book by Dewi Lewis Publishing, so currently I am working on promoting that.  I am also shooting for a new project; it’s about memory and emotions, and my journey through the different phases of grief. I’ve been working on it for the last four years, since my mother died. I’m hoping to have some time to sit with it and start the editing process, and see what emerges.


Find out more about MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication