Sophie White, photography student at Manchester School of Art, talks with Grrrlizm about her photography projects, the Post Silver degree show and her body-positive blog, Aint No Diet.
Hey Sophie, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a documentary photographer originally from Kendal in the Lake District. I moved to Manchester to study photography at degree level having already studied it at GCSE and A-Level. I loved Manchester so much I never went home over summer breaks! I just stayed in the city working and creating. I like to create in whichever medium takes my mood so have always felt uncomfortable calling myself a photographer!
How was your experience studying photography at Manchester School of Art?
I found first year and second year really difficult. I had a bit of an identity crisis personally and as a photographer and ended up losing 2 stone out of stress, so that wasn’t great. Towards the end of second year, I became close with Rae and Tasha and the strong bond we have as a collective really helped me find my feet again and re-engage with the course. It’s a family bond we share – we’re all unique but we just gel so well together and spend our days building each other up. The key to surviving any university course is to have a good friendship group and I’m really happy to say I have that. The course is brilliant and the freedom to become whatever kind of creative you desire is a key strength of the course. I never actually wanted to go to uni but now I’m nearing the end I really don’t want to leave! I wish I had listened when my elder siblings (I’m the youngest of 4) told me to make the most of it!
‘We are Homeless’, a film made in second year about the homeless crisis in Manchester and how MMU were actively worsening the situation to the dismay of students and lecturers alike. I spent quite a lot of time conversion with Jen (the builder of Ark on Oxford Road) and then went to protests with her and documented her struggle to help those who needed a voice.
What inspired your blog, Aint No Diet?
I’ve always felt uneasy within my own skin so started the blog which airs my own body concerns and aims to help others over come theirs! I’ve always struggled with weight and self-esteem often entering relationships that weren’t good for me and I started to wonder why I basically self-sabotaged. I would eat too much, drink too much or generally hang out with the wrong people all because I didn’t feel good enough about myself. Why? Because magazines, online ad campaigns and everything that is aimed at a female audience (especially female but not limited to) is made to make us feel inadequate. It sells. If you hate yourself enough you’ll buy anything to make you feel better – cake, slimming pills, new ‘slimming’ trousers, a book on diets, a diet plan etc. What’s so bad about loving yourself the way you are? Changing my mentality helped me to lose over a stone healthily and happily. I have no desired goal weight anymore and I don’t spend nights in tears over photographs of myself. Changing your mentality about yourself will change your life for the better and I believe everyone should know that! You’re not the problem the media is – photographers are! We lie and edit everything! The blog has been successful in helping women from all different background and ages overcome their body issues. My proudest moment with the blog was receiving emails from two different girls saying it had helped aid their recovery from eating disorders. I just put my views out there as therapy for myself – the fact it helps others is incredible to me.
Tell us about your Nepal series from 2013.
Tell us about your Manchester Water Polo Club images.
I work for Greenwich Leisure limited (GLL) as a lifeguard at the Manchester Aquatic Centre to pay my bills. Making connections with people even outside of the creative industry has always been important to me and my work – you never know what the next interesting idea can be spurted from and who can inspire you. I was asked by one of my managers who had recently moved to the GLL East Manchester site to document the Water Polo teams of Manchester at the site. The work was then presented to the Council and is in the process of being commissioned to be made into a permanent exhibition at the site. I am by no means a sports photographer but I love documentary and trying new things so it was the perfect opportunity to leave my mark and the city that has shaped me as a photographer.
What is the meaning of Post Silver? How have you fundraised and prepared for your degree show?
We chose the name ‘Post Silver’ as it has a lot of meaning behind it. ‘Post’ meaning after or following uni as it is a student run collective external to university and ‘Silver’ s a chemical, alchemic, image-making process. We’re a collective of students from third year who wanted to take the degree work further than Manchester as we’ve exhibited in the city so often. We have so far fundraised with a extremely successful print fair (we will be holding another one soon), film nights at Rev’s in Fallowfield, a kick-starter and a Go-Fund me page. Also, we will be hosting another film night on April 3rd at Rev’s (fallow field) and a Bingo night with plenty of fun prizes to be won in May so keep checking our Facebook page for more info and help us reach our target!! If you’d like to donate, please visit our Kickstarter!
What is the concept behind your final major project, Trope?
For my Final Major Project, I am working on a project that uses metaphorical imagery to talk about Mental Health and the conversations (or lack of) around this area. The work aims to make the viewer ask questions and feel emotive, then asks why they can feel this way about artwork but as a society we struggle to talk about mental health in such a similar and open way. I am currently working on a film that will reflect these ideologies but so far I have experimented with immersive and interactional prints that are abstract not illustrative to the normal cliche representations of mental health in the media and in photography.
Who is your phenomenal woman?
My mother. Cliche maybe, but 100% my mother. She is incredibly resilient and strong. She could put the world to rights. I never want to fail her and so that fear keeps me going. My mum is the one person that I can go to about anything. She has the best sense of humour and always knows just what to say to keep me going. I hope I can be half the woman she is. She’s just beautiful in every sense of the word. She deserves the world and one day I hope to be able to give it to her.
Do you have any plans for when you finish university?
I have a few ideas but nothing set in stone. I’d quite like to travel a bit first and spend some time with my family as it’s been a very hectic and stressful year for me. I’d love to stay in Manchester so who knows!
Interview by Amy Smithers.