Sarah Bradley - Art, Photography and What It All Means!

Sarah is a teacher of Art and Design at Ysgol Bryngwyn secondary school, in Llanelli, (the same as our very own techie, Alan Harris)! She’s been teaching for 19 years and, although her primary passion is for print and paint, she also has an interest in photography.

When she first started teaching, the high cost of film photography, meant that it was not usually available for children to learn about in school. However, with the development of new, digital cameras and ICT (Information and Communications Technology), departments in schools, it is now possible for children to take GCSEs in this subject. So, now Sarah needs to develop a course for this new part of the Art and Design department, and she asked us if we would give our thoughts and ideas at the end of her talk. Such courses have to encourage a deep understanding of creativity; analyses of other peoples work, using all the tools available and understanding how they work, having a reason for what’s created, and producing unique results.

Sarah attended university, with the intention of becoming an illustrator, however, it soon became apparent that her real interests lay in printmaking and painting. Whilst completing her degree, she also used photography, using a chart, developed from a philosophy of art, to help her evolve ideas with a purpose.

Her final work for her degree was inspired by things found in the countryside. Boxes with photographic images of some discarded clothing, lit from within and placed, as an installation, on wood chips, on the gallery floor. This could be viewed in what ever way the audience wished, but had a purpose for Sarah, that mattered to her.

Although she still prefers hands on, darkroom and print room techniques, Sarah is now embracing digital photography and the associated editing software. However, she thinks, (and I agree), that a basic understanding of the camera and creative editing is essential for children who, having only experienced simple, one-click effects with mobile phone apps. may not appreciate what “Art” really is or how to generate it.

“Every practitioner, (of art), should know what they are doing and why”

Sarah brought along several books for us to look at and made reference to those she uses, or which informed her ideas, as she developed her photographic skills.

After university Sarah worked as a teacher, first in a primary school, where she helped the children work in the darkroom and use photograms, dressing up, collages and their imagination, to produce an installation that won a distinction for the school.

She then had a break from photography, until digital technology and cheaper computers made it more affordable.

Now, teaching in a secondary school, her aim is to help her pupils achieve good grades at GCSE Photography, to include the ethics of using photographs of or by others, mobile phone use, selfies, facebook and instagram as well as analysing their own and others work, understanding how to use the camera and editing software and producing unique work with a “purpose”!

After tea, we had a chance to discuss all this and more, both with Sarah and amongst ourselves. Something we don’t often have the opportunity to do.

I think this talk gave us all a lot to think and talk about.

Thank you very much for this inspiring talk, Sarah. I hope we gave you some useful information in return!

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