An Interview With: Ben Soedira


Who are you and what did you study?

I'm Ben, and I have just recently graduated from Glasgow School of Arts fine art photography course.

Could you introduce us to your work ‘Foreign Sands’?

Foreign Sands was a project that initially started out as a reflection of the worlds current state and issues. However when going back to Dubai it ended up developing in a way that spoke about those topics but with a much stronger personal tie, especially around the idea of home and familiarity. The work developed itself in a way that spoke about foreign influences, wether it be culture or the landscape itself. The title came from Dubai's importation of sand for construction, essentially Dubai is built up on foreign elements from the imported natural resources to peoples influence they have brought from their motherland.


You talk about the idea around home and familiarity within your work, is this the motivation behind your project? How was studying in the UK?

Most definitely it is, a lot of what I realised when making the project was my questioning on where home really is for me and other people that live there. I was born in the UAE and lived there for eighteen years, however when I visit 'home' it has to be on a tourist visa which allows me to stay a month at a time, so it definitely impacted the projects idea of where is home? What can I make of this place?. Going back is always a bit strange it always feels very homely but visually the city develops so quickly I can never keep up, its a bit strange getting lost in your own home town but I guess thats what helped push this body of work. Studying in the UK was fine, I have family here so i'd visit most summers, so in a cultural sense it wasn't daunting. The weather is most definitely the biggest change, it never seems to stop raining.


The photograph, 'Influenced Landscape 2', shows references to the constructed landscape and the sand, was this one of the intentions?

A huge part of the work was the colour palette of the city and the idea of its landscape, it came from the metaphor that you could visit the same spot in the desert and it would be different due to the shift in wind and movement of sediment in the sand dunes. It reflected very much the state of the city and its constant shifting of people and construction. Alongside this is Dubai constructing against these elements to create a very post modern city, a city that has literally rose up from the sand which people hopefully get from the body of work.

The 'Watering' and 'Carpet’ photographs essentially hold similar values in colour and environment yet they work well within the series, did you find that because of the environment you were in, your project could run smoothly or did you run into any obstacles?

I think the main obstacle of the project was my familiarity with the place, however it did also work in my favour. I'm comfortable when making photographs in Dubai because its home for me, but at the same time it can be stressful because i'm limited on time as there is only so many times I can go back. I also get sucked into making photographs that are purely visually appealing and aren't actually relevant to the concept which I think is easy in Dubai as its such a visually interesting space. Although I am very influenced by documentary photography and photojournalism so I think my approach to making work is have an idea and visit these places that work with that idea. From there I kind of just let the work develop itself. I don't like to necessarily have a particular subject I want to photograph, its more the visiting of place and letting myself find the subject, it gives the work a bit of space to move and develop.

Do you see your project as ongoing? If so, what do you hope to do to progress further?

I'm actually going back in August to visit the family, which gives me a chance to potentially clean the work up a bit, I have had thoughts of visiting Lancashire to where Dubai buy and import their sand from. This could add a potential edge to the work maybe even be a new series in itself, I just don't want to kill the body of work and make it too big with far too many photographs. I think knowing when to stop is important, that being said I am certain on making the body of work into a photo book as this was one of the first ideas I came to when starting.


What are your plans for the rest of 2017 and your future in Photography?

I currently have an exhibition on at Citizen M in Glasgow, and have been working with Culture NL to organise an exhibition next year. I also have the RSA New Contemporaries in Edinburgh next year that I have been working towards. I'd love to see this particular body of work be displayed in Dubai at some point which is something I am also working towards. There are a few other projects I have planned and intend on working on so we will see where that develops. Ideally keep making photographs and pushing myself and my practice.


Could you share any advice with other photographers approaching their next year of study, How would you advise them to get the best out of the year?

I would defiantly say make the most of the facilities you have on offer along with the amount of time you can dedicate to making work. And have faith in your work, be confident with it try not to follow trends as it will show. Don't see degree show as a peak of your practice but more of a strong start.