An Interview With: Natasha Ullah
Who are you and where do you study?
My name is Natasha Ullah and I am two weeks away from finishing my photography degree at The University of Huddersfield.
Could you introduce us to the work 'The spotted dog' ?
The Spotted Dog has been a local pub for many people since it’s opening in the 60's. Situated in the middle of a council estate, it's one of few that have been able to avoid closing. For some the routine on a Sunday is church, for me it was going to the local to meet up with relatives and friends to play bingo, bus stops and chocolate board amongst the mist of cigarette smoke. Throughout the years not much has changed. This project explores people from all areas of Hull that have a routine, which brings them to a certain place every Sunday, were they become part of a community.
How do you think an outsider's perception of Hull and your reality of it differ?
I’ve always had mixed feelings about my hometown, it’s a marmite type of place, you either love it or you hate it! We have gone from being voted the worst place to live in the UK to City of Culture 2017, which has seen a lot of changes to the city and what my project was originally about. But I didn’t want to create something that emphasised the changes that were happening; I wanted to celebrate the city and the amazing variety of people that live there. I can see why people that don’t live there or haven’t ever visited would have these ideas of what Hulls like, but it really is unique and full of character and charm.
The photographs are evidence of a relationship you have with the people that frequent The Spotted Dog pub. This is something that I believe gives the project authenticity and integrity. How do the locals feel about the project?
They’ve been really supportive and happy to help in anyway they can. They haven’t been fazed by my constant photo taking, which is probably helped by the many pints they consume whilst they’re there! I have a different level of relationships with different people so I know who is going to be happy for me to take their picture and who is going to be a bit shy about it. It’s been such a lovely experience for me as I haven’t had much time to visit since I’ve been at University and it also gave me an opportunity to find out more about the pub, it’s history and customers memories. It was also nice to see archival images that I hadn’t seen before, some of which I was in.
Hull is to be named 'City of culture' 2017 do you feel that this work could have a role in reinforcing that title?
I like to think that it does yes. I really wanted to highlight how important these people are not only to me, but also to each other. It’s obvious through the images that this isn’t the most glamorous of pubs, and these types of places have a reputation for being rough but to me they’re like family and they’re important. I think the poem at the beginning of my photo book really enforces the political sides of it too, I haven’t posted it anywhere online yet but poet Hannah Batley has really got the feel of the pub and its traditions. Old pubs are the norm in Hull and each one is full of so much character, but I have grown up around these people and places so maybe I’m a little bias and put them on a pedestal a little!
What have you got on the horizon for 2017?
I’ve been entering a lot of competitions and trying to get the project out there. I’m doing a talk at the Red Eye Hot House event in Sheffield on the 10th June which I’m really excited / nervous about and I’m hoping to see a lot of amazing projects and meet some lovely new fellow photographers! At the moment I’m just trying to do my final push towards my degree and then thinking about applying for a masters.
What would be your best advice for anyone graduating in the coming months?
I’m graduating myself this year too so that’s kind of a hard one! I think everyone always thinks by time they finish their degree they’ll know what they want to do next and have a career panned out but that’s not the case for many people, including me! But it’s important to not let that scare you, just go with the flow and see where it takes you, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have your life planned straight away. And also, listen to your tutors, they’ve been in your position and they’re trying to help, it’s probably the last time you’re going to be in a situation where you have all this help around you so take advantage of it!