An Interview With: Oliver Webster

Who are you and where did you study?

Hi I’m Oliver, I’m 22 years old from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. I have just recently graduated from Bath School of Art and Design with a first class honours degree in Photography.

What is your artist statement for the body of work “Extractions“?

The current state of a place often reflects its history and nowhere is this more evident than in the examination of the culture and landscape of Wales. Welsh identity and sense of belonging are impossible to separate from the major industries of extraction that are embedded in Welsh culture and community.

Wales has a rich geology and mining at the centre of its cultural heritage. The extraction industries that developed around slate, copper and coal have been singularly responsible for reshaping both the social and physical landscape of Wales.

The virtual disappearance of these vast and socially consuming industries has changed a way of life and undermined the very survival of whole communities.  What remains today as icon to the foundation of Welsh industrial heritage and culture are these anthropogenic landscapes that stand timeless as a reflection of humankind’s relationship with it.

The work presents a series of landscapes that illustrates the consequence of industrial need on once thriving communities now lost or displaced.

The quality of the images are immaculate, what do you do/use to create these images?

I use a Nikon D810 with good glass. The way in which the raw files are processed is important to extract the best results. In ‘Extractions’ it was particularly important to achieve a rich tonality across the body of work.

What are your main influences for the work?

I am interested in mans relationship with and impact on the land. For me nowhere is this more evident than in Wales where the traditional mining industries of slate, copper and coal have altered the landscape. I had thought how these changes were a visible reflection of the misfortune of Welsh communities. My motivation was to see how I might be able to reflect the social and physical re-shaping of Wales and its people. I have also had a lifelong connection with North Wales holidaying there since childhood. This is an area that holds many memories and I suppose it was this attachment that encouraged me to look differently at this unique landscape.

The locations of the images are very remote, how did you plan/research for the shoots?

I’m familiar with North Wales and its geography. But it was still a challenge to find appropriate locations to shoot the slate and copper mining industries for the publication. The South Wales coalfields were a more challenging location to plan, research and shoot as I didn’t know the area at all. I used a combination of OS maps and Google maps to scout locations based on industry research.

Why did you choose to shoot colour?

To capture the unique colour palate and tonality of Wales, I don’t think there is anywhere else quite like it in the world!

What did you learn whilst creating this project?

Exploring the landscape using photography has provoked a more insightful understanding and appreciation of it. The natural landscape holds a nostalgia that I have come to understand is derived from the culture and history of a place. Inspired by reading landscape, I have developed a more intimate appreciation of what is around me. I have been encouraged to wonder what mankind’s influence has been and these thoughts have been instrumental in developing my work.

What are your plans for the future?

My time at Bath Spa has passed all to quickly. I am now excited to showcase my prints and publications at our degree show at the Bargehouse, OXO Tower, London from the 28th to the 31st July. After this I will see what opportunities exist for me to embark on a career in photography.

All images copyright of Oliver Webster


Daniel AinsworthComment