Skip to main content

Alumnus Nathan Johnson shares his experience

University of Central Lancashire Photography graduate and current MA student, Nathan Johnson, had always been enthusiastic about photography and its power to capture a single moment in time and knew it was something he wanted to try and carve a career in.

Nathan loves history and how the photograph can act as evidence of past events for future generations and this inspired him to choose the BA (Hons) Photography at UCLan. When Nathan first began studying, he said he was bothered by the fact he didn’t enjoy studio photography or shooting on location. He commented: “I had no interest in having a career in shooting weddings or photographing models in fancy clothes but at the time that is what I thought photography was. I now know that the concept of photography expands way beyond that. It can be anything you want it to be and I now try to adhere to the rule that as long as you enjoy the project it shouldn’t matter if it ‘defines’ what photography is or not.”

During his final year of study, Nathan won the University award in the Fine Art and Photography category at the Degree Show and his tutor suggested he should put his work forward for the opportunity to exhibit at the Waterside Art Gallery, where there were 13 spaces for graduates to showcase their work. Nathan was successful in being chosen and earned a place in the First Light exhibition with his project, The Gay Times.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the exhibition couldn’t take place but was rearranged and will now open from May 2021 at Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces in Warrington. The project aims to celebrate the work of photography graduates from the North of England and will comprise of a series of online talks, as well as a physical exhibition.

The idea for Nathan’s degree project stemmed from his love of history as well as the timing of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 2019, which sparked his interest in LGBTQ history. Nathan said: “I had never properly researched the events that led to the first pride events taking part in this country. Whilst growing up, whenever images of pride parades flashed up on the TV screens, I would hear remarks questioning their existence. To those in my closest family these parades were just an excuse to get drunk and prance around in women’s clothes. As you can imagine this didn’t sit well with me. 

"My search for answers led me to online newspaper archives that highlighted the plight of gay men before homosexuality became socially acceptable among the public. It was heart-breaking to read about the ways gay men were addressed in the media. Words like ‘sinners, degenerates and mentally ill’ came up often. This completely opened my eyes to the fact that pride is so much more than a baseless celebration. The very first pride parades were in protest the dehumanisation of the LGBTQ community that has existed throughout centuries. The research conducted during that summer is what shaped my fictional, archived based project."

Gallery01 / 02

The Gay Times is a fictional storytelling document, highlighting the discrimination of sexuality in 1970s’s Britain. Nathan said he was Influenced by the short film ‘Love Is All You Need’ by Kim Rocco Shields and constructed a fictional narrative subtly based around the real-life discrimination of homosexuals in the media.

When talking about his project, Nathan said: “Each photograph selected for this project was constructed through editing existing archival and modern imagery. This was to symbolically highlight the fact that queer rights are still an ongoing topic and that whilst this project is based in the past it is also influenced by today’s political climate on gay existence.

Nathan is still studying at UCLan on the MA Photography and has some advice for students and graduates who want to get their work seen by larger audiences. He said: “Take as many opportunities as you can since you will build a relationship with various connections that allow you to have these experiences. Create a website or social media account to promote yourself. It also helps to stand out above others who may be on the same level as you. Contacting people or entering competitions is highly recommended if you wish to get noticed.”

When asked what impact his degree has had on his career goals, Nathan said: “My degree has certainly allowed me to come into my own in terms of creativity and given me opportunities that have been greatly beneficial to my practice as a photographer. One example is being able to identify exactly what interests me and which direction I want my career to go in.”

The Gay Times is a fictional storytelling document, highlighting the discrimination of sexuality in 1970s’s Britain. Nathan said he was Influenced by the short film ‘Love Is All You Need’ by Kim Rocco Shields and constructed a fictional narrative subtly based around the real-life discrimination of homosexuals in the media.

When talking about his project, Nathan said: “Each photograph selected for this project was constructed through editing existing archival and modern imagery. This was to symbolically highlight the fact that queer rights are still an ongoing topic and that whilst this project is based in the past it is also influenced by today’s political climate on gay existence.

"Take as many opportunities as you can since you will build a relationship with various connections that allow you to have these experiences."

Nathan Johnson, BA (Hons) Photograhy graduate

Nathan is still studying at UCLan on the MA Photography and has some advice for students and graduates who want to get their work seen by larger audiences. He said: “Take as many opportunities as you can since you will build a relationship with various connections that allow you to have these experiences. Create a website or social media account to promote yourself. It also helps to stand out above others who may be on the same level as you. Contacting people or entering competitions is highly recommended if you wish to get noticed.”

When asked what impact his degree has had on his career goals, Nathan said: “My degree has certainly allowed me to come into my own in terms of creativity and given me opportunities that have been greatly beneficial to my practice as a photographer. One example is being able to identify exactly what interests me and which direction I want my career to go in.”