Helen first completed her National Diploma in Graphic Design in 2004 at Leeds Arts University.
Helen graduated in 2006 with a distinction HND in Photography & Digital Imaging. After leaving Leeds Arts University, Helen went on to study the prestigious BA (Hons) Documentary Photography degree at University of Wales, Newport.
Currently based in Cardiff, Helen is Exhibitions Officer at Ffotogallery, the national development agency for photography and lens-based media in Wales. Helen oversees the exhibitions programme, as well as continuing to manage her own independent projects as a photographer, writer, curator and designer.
What did you enjoy about your time at Leeds Arts University and how did the course help you in starting out professionally?
Being led by such ambitious, knowledgeable and encouraging teaching staff and having access to industry-standard equipment, software and the arts library really shaped my experience at Leeds Arts University. It offered me the specific critical base and practical skill building I needed to develop as a young designer (and later photographer) and challenged me to make the most innovative and expressive work that I could whilst discovering what it was that really turned me on.
My experience and education with Leeds Arts University not only gave me the skills but the confidence to move down to Wales to study for my degree at one of Europe’s most prestigious photography schools.
I am very proud to be have been a part of the community at Leeds Arts University; the sense of collaboration and collective energy that was instilled there has stayed with me throughout higher education and into my career. I still produce work in partnership with friends I met at Leeds, whether in my professional capacity at Ffotogallery or on independent freelance design projects.
What work have you gone on to do since leaving Leeds?
When I first left, and whilst studying in Wales, I was assisting for documentary and editorial photographer John Angerson, who I had actually met through one of the Leeds Arts University modules.
In 2008, on completing Documentary Photography at University of Wales, Newport I was selected for Impressions Gallery & Redeye Photography Network’s HANG programme of workshops for recent graduates and emerging photographers. This programme brought 13 photographers together to make new work over a period of nine months and curate a resulting group exhibition with the support of the Impressions Gallery team. During this time I also became the Gallery Officer at Ffotogallery in Cardiff and later, their full-time Exhibitions Officer.
In recent years I have also been working on numerous external projects, as of 2010, I have been working with fellow Leeds Arts University graduate Zoe Platt on the design and production of artist books and promotional print for a range of Wales-based artists including Kathryn Ashill. I was also invited to co-curate an exhibition for Chapter Gallery, Cardiff. ‘The Institute of Critical Zoologists’ opened in April 2012. It took just over a year to bring together and included facilitating a residency and off-site installation at the National Museum Cardiff and the commissioning of new work especially for the exhibition.
In 2013 I worked as a creative producer for Cardiff-based creative writer Briony Goffin on her Age Cymru commission.
How would you describe your work?
My photographic work was always about people; our society, personal and collective histories and experience. Although this practice is currently on hiatus, I feel these concepts have definitely infiltrated my work and desires as a creative producer and designer. As such audiences are at the heart of what I do and all of the events or projects I coordinate aim to provide memorable and exciting experiences for people to participate, question and create photography and art.
I get a lot of satisfaction out of coordinating such a variety of projects that encompass and interweave the visual arts, design and print production. I have no doubt though, that I will return to making photographic projects at some point soon.
What are you currently working on?
At Ffotogallery two main projects that we’re currently working on are 1) installing our winter exhibition for 2013-14, Stasis by Danish photographer Trine Søndergaard and 2) researching and planning for Wish You Were Here 2014, our triennial summer season showcasing new work from Wales-based early career photographers and recent graduates.
In my spare time I am currently developing written work around photography, including writing exhibition reviews. A recent review can be read here.
I am also in the process of establishing a collective under which I can brand my independent design work and produce visual arts projects and commissions alongside a team of contributors and freelancers based in Wales, the South West and the North of England, called The Refiney.
Any future ambitions or projects in the pipeline?
I am about to become a tutor in photography at the Open University of the Arts, which has been an ambition of mine for some time. I am also preparing a research project that explores photography as a three-dimensional medium particularly in relation to sculpture and ceramic practices.
You can see more of Helen’s work on her website: helenwarburton.com