Photography – In Focus with Caoimhe Clements

Searching out new ways to capture her university city of Belfast, photographer Caoimhe Clements is shooting cityscape and nature photography whilst building a fascinating photo project of her acceptance and desire to raise awareness of epilepsy. Here, she talks us through her work and the inspiration behind it…

‘My name is Caoimhe Clements and I am a 21-year-old amateur photographer. I grew up in a small town situated on Ireland’s east coast called Kilkeel. I am now based in the exciting arts city of Belfast, as this is where I study at university and where I do many of my photographic projects.

Growing up I have always been a creative individual and I have had an interest in photography from a very young age. One of my favourite memories as a kid was using the disposable camera, it was exciting because you couldn’t preview your images therefore you had to wait until you got them developed. Film photography is something I have grown away from over the years, although I do have plans to revisit it in the future. As for now, I am very much a digital user.

I feel that photography and taking photos in general has become such a big part of everyone’s lives from social media and the fact that every phone now has a camera, therefore everyone has access to some form of camera.

I am a big believer there is a line between someone who is a photographer, an individual who has a creative vision, and using a camera to translate what they are communicating. On the other hand, just because you own a camera doesn’t make you a photographer, a camera is a tool – it’s your creativity that creates an image. As Henri Bresson- Cartier said, you don’t take a photo, you create it, these are the words of truth about photography.

At the age of 18, I brought my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D5300, I still use it to this day, it is great. I own a standard 18-55mm lens, 70-300mm lens and a 35mm prime lens. I think sometimes a  zoom lens can make you lazy as a photographer, because instead of getting close to your subject, you can just zoom in. This is why I use my 35mm lens a lot, I saw photography in a whole new way after using a prime for the first time. Although zoom lenses are great as well, I really enjoy working with a 70-300mm, I find it really good when doing sports or animal photography. In conclusion, a prime lens makes you go the extra mile for a good photograph.

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Since May 2019 I have been working on my current project entitled From the Inside Out. This project is about documenting and exploring the subject of epilepsy. I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was a new born baby, I never found it easy to talk about, but now I have decided to make an awareness about it. The strategy I used in this project is the combination of text and image to communicate to my viewers. My project will be on public display from 2nd 28th November 2019, at the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre in Newry City, Co. Down, Northern Ireland.

From the Inside Out photograph collection:

A Journey Back in Time

This is the first image in this series. It is a document of the hospital that I used to attend growing up with my battles with Epilepsy, The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.  After not being at this hospital for many years, A Journey Back in Time highlights how I took a trip down memory lane when I decided to do this project, by revisiting this location.

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The Room I Remember

I still remember how this room made me feel. My body was numb with fear and anxiety. I very much did not like speaking about my epilepsy and how my life was affected by it, I wanted it all to go away. I can accept it now; it is a part of who I am and we have to accept who we are as individuals.

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The Element of Prevent

This image is the third photograph in the collection. It is an image of the epileptic tablet, Keppra. It is a document of how epilepsy can be prevented by taking medication. For myself, Keppra is the medication that made my life seizure free.

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The Measure of Blood Pressure

This photograph speaks about how blood pressure can be affected by the act of having seizures. Focal seizures can cause a massive increase in the heart racing, affecting your blood pressure, while Tonic Clonic seizures can lower the blood pressure in the body.

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The Cycle Repeats

This is the final image in this collection. This photograph represents how the cycle repeats; every day children and adults are being diagnosed with epilepsy. Over 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy and that number is not decreasing.

I do plan on continuing with this project, I do not want to stop creating awareness about epilepsy. I am figuring it out as I go along, that is the beauty of art, you never stop learning.

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Over the course of the last year and a half I have started to develop my style of photography in documentary. Every photo ever captured is arguably a document of something; Documentary Photography is telling a story of how it is while Staged Photography is recreating a story.

As I said earlier, I have been living in Belfast just over a year now and from always being in a part of the city that is under full contraction, this started my interest in the idea that every time we look at these contraction sites, we are generally looking at the future of the city. We are witnessing the future of Belfast city, which I find very intriguing.  A few months ago, I started to document this idea by taking photos of the cranes. I am so amazed by them, they are strong, huge and somehow look great in an image.

The image above is a document of the contraction of the brand new Ulster University campus in Belfast city centre, which will be opened in the early 2020s. This image now hangs in the arts campus of Ulster University. I exhibited the image at the Glasgow Gallery of Photography in Scotland in May 2019. This experience was amazing, it got me thinking if my work is good enough to exhibit overseas then I have the power to create amazing photos.

I have an exhibition planned for Belfast in March 2020 and I am producing work that documents the exciting future of the city. While a lot of photographers document the past and the worst times for Belfast, and while I enjoy looking at how they create their work, it is my aim to create and produce work with a more positive approach showing the exciting future that Belfast will have. This project is still very much in its extremely early days.

Belfast is a city that has captured my heart, I love Belfast for its fantastic architecture and amazing cityscapes. I enjoy walking around and capturing architectural shots, documenting the city.

The image on the left shows Harland and Wolff in the background, with the bridges over the River Lagan in the foreground. I took this in March 2019 during the spring and I think the blue skies really complement the image.

The image on the right shows one of the most photographed buildings in Belfast. The Belfast City Hall, which marks the heart of the city centre, is located at the top of Royal Avenue which is main shopping district in the city. I created this image by placing the City Hall to the right of the frame and using that to lead the viewers eye to the buildings in the background. When I create a photograph, I don’t want to capture it like everyone else does or I am not being original. Think outside the box.

I also feel that landmarks in any city are hard to capture because so many people take photos of them every day. My advice would be to show the landmark in a different way that no one else has captured yet because you don’t want to take the same photo that everyone takes. Think about your angle, your focal length and the time of day.

Continuing on the topic of being original and thinking creatively, I enjoy combining reflection photography with night photography. I think water creates surreal reflection images, which I love.

This image shows The Obel Tower, which is in fact the tallest building on the island of Ireland. I took this image in January 2019, after a downpour of rain. You can tell,  as the water did get onto my lens but the outcome was a very contemporary abstract image which I really liked. I also feel that low angles work so well for my work, as I love putting reflections in the foreground and placing the actual building in the middle-ground or background.

I have also experimented with long shutter speed in the past, it is fun but I have grown away from it as it has become a big trend especially on Instagram. I think for me as a photographer I don’t want to follow the crowd, I want to create my own unique work. I think this is important.

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I grew up in a natural environment, with mountains and the coast beside me, therefore I developed a love for nature from a young age. As a photographer,nature would have been a subject I have been photographing since the very beginning, but now that I am based in a city environment, I missed photographing nature. Early this year I decided to become a Volunteer Photographer for the Woodland Trust which is a charity based in the UK and the North of Ireland, this way I would be photographing nature. So far it has been amazing.

The location of these images is one of the Woodland Trust’s protected woodlands in Co. Down.

The charity is about protecting woodlands, and helping to fight climate change. Myself and the rest of the team of photographers are helping them to achieve their aims by promoting these places through imagery that features on their website.

My career so far has been quite a journey, but I am excited for the near future.’

All photos are taken and copyrighted by Caoimhe – you can follow her on Instagram to keep up to date with her journey as a photographer

Caoimhe’s exhibition From the Inside Out is on display now until 28th November at:
Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, 1A Bank Parade, Newry BT35 6HP

5th November 2019