Photographer Laura Dicken couldn’t be more Black Country. She comes from stock who brew their own beer at home, who over the generations have worked at the Bilston Steelworks and in lock factories.
So when she was commissioned to cover 100 Masters for Creative Black Country as a visual artist, she felt honoured.
This is a project celebrating the abundance of contemporary skill and talent alive today in the region. From poets to potters, sculptors to blacksmiths, 100 Masters has got it covered, championing businesses, artists, and individuals renowned not only in the region, but the world over.
Laura took time out ahead of this weekend’s Festival of Masters to tell ARTS FOUNDRY about how she’s approaching her work…
Your focus is on Masters who are also makers. How did you make sure you reflected their working environment?
I am a documentary photographer, so I show what I see and how I see it. Nothing was staged and nothing was ‘arranged’ in my photographs. I was simply there as a witness to these wonderfully talented individuals and it was a pleasure to meet them in their natural environment.
I can’t take any credit for how interesting and creative the workspaces were – that is all down to the makers who use them. I can only hope that I do them justice.
Portrait artists often use a similar approach, by depicting people in everyday settings. What is the power in a single picture telling a story?
There are so many approaches and none are right or wrong. Mine is always to represent someone and somewhere authentically.
It’s not about me or what I want to portray, it’s about documenting what actually is. The viewer will always project their own narrative onto something anyway.
Tell us about your own Black Country upbringing…
I am from a very traditional, working, Black Country family. My Great-Nan used to brew her own beer at home and my Grampa worked in Bilston Steelworks. My Nan, Aunt and Mom worked in lock factories and my own first job was in a lock factory.
The men in my family are Wolves season ticket holders… I’m not sure how many signifiers someone needs to be counted as ‘proper Black Country’ but I think I probably tick quite a few of the boxes.
Who inspires you?
There are a few other photographers who I am inspired by, and I take a lot of inspiration from other mediums like books, films, and visual art. But most of all I am inspired by people, the ‘ordinary’ people who are fully engaging with life.
What do you learn from people along the way?
That, inherently, we are all the same. The hopes and fears inherent in human experience are pretty universal, it’s just that people react in different ways.
100 Masters photographs © Laura Dicken
Festival of Masters
The Festival of Masters takes place on Saturday 25 November, Starworks Warehouse, WV2 from 11am. Free entry, all ages welcome.
Directions: Starworks Warehouse on Frederick Street is next to St John’s Retail Park (behind Next). A 10 minute walk from Wolverhampton Train Station or 5 minutes from the Mander and Wulfrun Centre. Paid parking is available.