In the Studio with Sarah Edwards

London-based photographer Sarah Edwards draws from nature, fashion and landscape in order to create her ephemeral works which take on a painterly quality. This month, we spoke with Sarah about growing up in the country, her techniques and found out more about latest work, “Sun Roof”.

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I was born in the countryside only an hour from London but it was proper countryside. It has given me a real appreciation of nature and the environment. My parents were very into country pursuits and wanted me to be knowledgeable about nature in all its aspects. My father was very interested in photography and I think that encouraged me and I borrowed his equipment.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track? 

Whilst studying Fine Art Photography at Westminster London I received such a positive response to the work I produced and was encouraged to always look at working outside of ones comfort zone, both creatively and technically, and constantly push yourself. This enabled me to stop agonising over my technical ability and follow my idea of creating the images I wanted, in the best way I could. Exhibiting my work in group shows at that time helped me see that I had a clear identity and the reaction to what I produced was enormously encouraging.

What’s the message of your work? Are there themes/narratives/purpose? Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic? 

There are definite themes in my work, but I would say that the key factor in my work is light; how I experience it emotionally and the effect it has on my subject – it’s what inspires me. My message is that there is beauty in the everyday, but we do need to be looking closely, get up early to see mist in the landscape, look at plants after they die, photograph that dress under water!

Who/what are your greatest influences? 

It’s a real mix – it can be a painted landscape image that makes me want to shoot a dress in a certain way or architectural images that give me ideas on how I will photograph a particular plant.

An unexpected source of inspiration?

Other photographers posting on Instagram!

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

Some work has to be planned – booking models and studios and working with others. I love also to be alone, quiet and working with nature – I actually talk to the plant and ask them to behave in a certain way!

I like the tension of putting a lot in place to create a planned image, but then I can also be inspired by something I’ve just found and set up, a still-life created in moments, building something very complex in a matter of minutes. I put a lot of emotion into a photograph so I feel that when I see the print I imagine the viewer is feeling that emotion – maybe not.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? Do you see any parameters to your work? 

Ive always struggled with allowing myself time to be creative but I know it’s important for ones wellbeing to acknowledge if you are filled with ideas and images. If that’s the case then you must go out and produce the work no matter what the reaction.

I experiment every time I take a photo – photography is experimental by nature – technically and visually. I have used techniques to produce a picture that is not in the books and sometimes works brilliantly and sometimes doesn’t.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

That’s really hard to answer because it could be so many things. I guess my work has an identity but then it covers a wide range of subjects, so it could be the light or a face or a dress or a plant. I can get totally inspired by a whole range of “subjects”.

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your (consignment) works?

The piece “Sun Roof” was inspired by a long walk on Hampstead Heath in London. We got soaked on a long walk in the rain during the winter. Beautiful skeletal dark trees against dark grey clouds.

The following day I drove around, early evening, looking for huge trees in the neighbourhood. I poured water on the sun roof and lay out flat in my car and shot the tree moving wildly in the wind.

I can tell when I’ve captured the shot that I want.