With a sociological project capturing the raw essence of daily life in its most candid form under her belt, it's safe to say Ede Dugdale can give herself a pat on the back. 'Our Story' is a photographic and visual project that covers themes such as race, class and identity and puts them into an abstract form that articulates you as much as it draws you into it. With an exhibition and after-party to celebrate the coming together of photography, spoken word and an acknowledgement of youth culture, GM caught up with her before the exhibition (16-17 June at the Copeland Park Gallery in Peckham) to find out more about her and why 'Our Story' came to being among other things:
What empowers you about your work/what is it about your work that makes you happy?
“I think it’s maybe how I’ve actually found like an outlet for something that I’m passionate about. I’m really obsessed and passionate about society, culture, what’s going on right now and I wanted to create a piece of work or a project that explores this and showcases it and I think through the project ‘Our Story’ that I’ve created, I’m able to do this and this is what excites me about it every day.”
How long did it take to put ‘Our Story’ together, from the initial idea to having the exhibition?
“I started it towards the end of last year where I knew I wanted to make a publication and the idea came actually quite quickly. I think because I was really into culture, society, photography and fashion, the actual idea for it came quite quickly. I’d probably subconsciously been doing bits & bobs to do with it and then it came to the point where I was like “right, I’m just going to make a publication” and then I came up with the title ‘Our Story’ and I knew I wanted to do a publication that represented the unrepresented. I was always shooting some of my guy friends, just doing their day-to-day life and I knew I wanted to do a publication that was going to touch on social issues like race and class and what they experience on a daily basis so it moved quite quickly from being an idea to shooting starting and putting it into a publication form. From that, I think over a few months, I made like four volumes of that publication. From there, I had this vision that I wanted to turn it into a hardback book and then I asked myself how I could put this on a platform. It made sense to do a photography exhibition with the publication photography featured in it. I thought of this in January this year and it’s taken about six months to put it all together.”
How many people did you shoot altogether?
“Literally about a hundred different guys. There’s me that’s shooting for it and then there’s three other photographers as well and they’re shooting all the time. I say to people there’s probably about a hundred guys featured in it, sometimes I’d take pictures of not even people, just things you’d see when you’re out and about so it’s kind of like a daily thing but yeah I’d say there’s about a hundred different guys featured in the actual book that’s gonna be presented at the exhibition.”
What emotions do you people to feel when they look at your content?
“The emotions I want people to feel are probably kind of…I want people to be shocked and quite moved at what they’re seeing because I think this is what the key thing was when I started the project. I didn’t just want it to be like a fashion publication or a photography book, each picture and each topic has so much meaning behind it and I think that’s why when I’ve showed it to people before, they’ve actually been moved by it because it’s tackling emotional in-depth issues I don’t think younger generations touch on too much. There’s themes such as race, class, masculinity and stuff that these guys in their day-to-day lives might not sit down and talk about with their friends. You get them to open up about it and when you’re reading the book or looking at the photos, I want people to be like “oh shit, this is actually happening, we need to discuss this”. The words I pull out for the emotions are moved, shocked and engaged.”
So you want to create that shock factor that makes people think in a different way?
“Yeah and I want people to learn things like when I’ve showed it to older people, people that might not be surrounded by our day-to-day culture, they’re actually impressed and getting an insight into what these boys do in life and thinking “I wouldn’t have ever had this kind of insight offered to me.””
“It’s all shot on film so it gives that raw aesthetic anyway but it’s not like when I’m shooting models, I’m gonna get a makeup artist, a studio and a stylist. It’s literally just us walking about in London or wherever we are and I’m filming what they’re doing as if the camera isn’t there.”
To keep it authentic?
“Yeah, I think that’s a good word. Authentic and just raw and just actually real, that’s why it is our story because it’s actually their real life story, day-to-day culture really, I think that’s the big message really.”
Who inspires you now and who inspired you when you first started out in photography?
“I’d say a big person that definitely influenced this project is a photographer called Olivia Rose. Her style of photography, what she was shooting, I found it was really aesthetically pleasing when I first got into photography but then I think she tries to capture black males’ vulnerability and a side to them that isn’t often explored in popular culture. I researched her a lot when I first started this project. That was definitely a big influence on both the style of how I was shooting and also the actual topics so I’d definitely say her.”
“There’s a sociologist called Simon Wheatley, he’s hard.”
He’s an OG, his pictures are iconic, especially the one of Crazy T with his dog.
“That’s one of my favourite images ever. The book that image is from is called ‘Don’t Call Me Urban’. This is in the 00s as well and I think it’s so similar to what we’re doing now and the images that we want to create. He was actually doing it like twenty years which I think is sick. Simon like Olivia shot real people and what they’re doing, the whole social side covering issues of race, class and British culture.”
“There’s a lot of good photographers in the scene now so people like Vicky Grout who are just out capturing people. There’s a few people who shoot on film that I think inspire me, people just out here shooting on film and capturing authentic pictures. The other photographers who shot for ‘Our Story’ inspire me.”
So who are these other photographers that are part of the project?
“There’s one called Todd Duncan, he’s sick, he’s just a young guy who’s picked up a camera and shooting as much as he can so I’ve got some of his picture featured in the project. There’s another guy called Jake Ranford and Joseph McDermott as well, Joseph’s really good at capturing the moments of the night. I think the whole London scene at the moment with photographers is sick, you get a buzz off what everyone else is doing.”
“Me doing this project, I’ll get people giving it a like or a comment or sharing the stuff, it’s a nice atmosphere, everyone wants to help everyone. The people featuring in the project are gassed to be a part of it and I think their work is sick anyway so then you get that whole excitement where everyone wants to help everyone so I think London is in a good place.”
Who have been your favourite people to work with?
“I did a three month internship at Boys By Girls magazine last year and I was working with other interns and the editor there and it was a very small community based magazine basically. I think I learned a lot from them in terms of how you put together a publication so I’d definitely say my time there has been good. I’d probably also say the people that I’m shooting with at the moment, there’s a guy who I’m doing the after-event with, he’s called Tendai, he’s called Hermz on Instagram and we obviously organised the after-event with each other and I think working with him has been really nice because we both want it to be the best it can be so I’d definitely give him a shout-out and working with Danielle SE has been sick, I’ve been doing the visuals for the exhibition with her. I met with her to see the final visuals and they look sick, I’m gassed she’s been a part of it.”
Why do you think the 35mm camera is so popular among photographers nowadays?
“Firstly, I think it’s the style side to it. It obviously offers a much nicer and clearer aesthetic than shooting digital. With digital, you can shoot the same picture a hundred times whereas with film, because of the price and the logistics to it, you’re not going to keep shooting and it takes like an hour to edit it. You just capture the moment there & then and it’s just the exact same as if I was in person looking at it so I think that’s always attractive and I also just think they just look sick. If you see a film picture compared to a digital picture, anyone who has an eye for photography is always gonna favour the film picture because of how it looks.”
“It looks gritty, it looks raw and it actually looks like as if you’re there in person. I’m not a fan of editing images anyway, some people do it really well shoot in digital because you can just change the picture too much and it doesn’t become what you’re actually seeing whereas with a film camera, you shoot there & then, if the image looks good, it looks good. Sometimes it doesn’t but it’s that kind of excitement, taking the pictures to the developers and waiting for like a day or a few hours or whatnot, you’ll get that excitement when you’re looking through thinking “have any of them come out nice”. I think it’s almost become a trend as well.”
It’s getting more popular but it’s expensive to buy the resources that come with it.
“It’s so expensive, being a photographer anyway is so expensive because of the equipment. I’ll be spending stupid amounts on film and you might get five or six sick photos out of thirty-eight but those five or six are gonna look better than if I was shooting on digital. I can’t see myself not shooting on film for a long time and I know it’s become a trend but I think the people that are actually doing it properly and for the right reasons can continue to do it. I’ve got a lot of friends who do a lot of photography who say film looks better so they go and buy film cameras, shoot with them and go back to digital cameras the next time they’re shooting because they’re not in love with it. You have to be passionate about film to want to maintain it because it’s so fucking expensive.”
What are your future plans for the rest of this year?
“To carry on ‘Our Story’, I want to develop it further and further. I’m planning to do more events in the near future over the summer and just really getting it out there, getting it on platforms, more people involved and talking about it and then, I want to take it out of London and hopefully around Europe. My plan would be to take it to Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Barcelona. I’d love to be able to take the exhibition on a European tour and if I had the power and money to do so, I’d love to take to New York and to Compton, doing a version of ‘Our Story’ but with boys from Compton or from New York.”
All pictures used from the 'Our Story' project. Find out more about it by going to https://www.ourstorypublication.com/