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Art-school Adventures | w/ Kieran Cook

This is number three in our series of interviews with students who are at the beginning of the their artistic careers. Kieran Cook has just started Year 2 of a Photography BA at the Norwich University of Arts.

© Kieran Cook

Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you’ve chosen the course you have?

My name is Kieran, I’m a 19 year-old photographer originally from Essex and my work largely focuses on performance. My main projects at this moment in time are Undercurrent [link below], an independent music magazine and CCTV Church [link below], a project that takes photos exclusively using CCTV Cameras around the world.

It may be the biggest cliche in the book, but I’ve had some sort of camera in my hands since I was a child. I started uploading some horrendous photos of flowers to DeviantArt when I was eleven and never really looked back. After spending years trying to work photography into every secondary school art class, it seemed more than obvious to choose to study it in further education.

You’re now in your second year, I guess there’s been a dramatic change in how the course is taught since Covid, how are you coping with this?

Although this is an unpopular opinion, I personally feel like I’ve benefited from the shift to online learning. As someone who gets exhausted in social situations pretty quickly, I enjoy the independence of being able to work in my own space. I’ve always been more comfortable working alone erratically whilst flicking between five different tasks at once, so being given an opportunity to do so is something I couldn’t be more grateful for.

That being said, I am aware that I am one of few. After hearing far too many stories from students who feel cast out by their universities after the switch to online learning, there is no doubt in my mind that people should have the opportunity for a partial refund on their tuition fees. Although I understand that all universities are trying their best to acclimate to the sudden change in environment, this is not what students initially signed up for, and I urge those who feel strongly about it to stand up for themselves wherever they can.

© Kieran Cook

Any thoughts on what you’d like to get out of the course and what you hope to achieve by the end?

I’ve never been someone to look to the future because I’m always so focused on the present; my five year plan looks a lot more like a five business working days plan. If I plan things too closely, I become stressed, fluidity is the key to my work ethic. With that being said, my only hope is that by the time I graduate from NUA my projects can be at a stage where I can look at my own work and take pride in it.

You’re also busy with other projects, your Undercurrent zine, for example. Can you talk about how this came into being and how it relates to what you want to do when you leave NUA?

Undercurrent was formed after a few months of me and graphic designer Reece Cornwall throwing around the idea of some sort of project we wanted to collaborate on together. After spending far too long plucking up the courage to do so, we decided to start sending out emails to everyone we dreamt of covering in our first issue, big or small. It wasn’t until a few hours later after sending out three dozen emails to tour managers that we realised we probably should’ve come up with some sort of name for this project, thus, Undercurrent was born.

Although I love taking all kinds of photos, there is no doubt in my mind that shooting live music is my lifeblood and my future. The pressure and stress of knowing you only have three songs to take photos is unlike anything else. Fingers cramping whilst flicking between settings, the crowd roaring two feet behind you, beads of sweat trickling down your forehead, hairs greying one by one; it's all worth it and I would never change anything about it.

© Kieran Cook

Are there any artists or photographers that you particularly like, that you think we should check out?

One of my favourite photographers is my friend Phillip. His work is largely made up of Landscapes shot in Greece on a mix of digital and analogue, and can be found on his Instagram [link below] . Phillip is one of the few photographers who I’ve met who seems to see the same thing I see in the world, so seeing his work appear on my feed is always a pleasure.

Another Instagram account I’ve found myself mesmerized by is @languidd, a database of birds-eye-view satellite images that turn the Earth’s surface into beautifully abstract images that have given me a newfound appreciation for photographic composition and for the beauty of mother nature.

The third and last artist I would like to share is @gorgonstare. Run by Dutch artist Nick Morgenbach, the page acts as an archive of Google Earth ‘portraits’ - using the unique lens of Google Street View. Creating images all over the globe, his portraits, if they can be called that, never reveal their subject’s identity. Each face is automatically blurred by Google themselves, resulting in haunting, ghostly and entirely unique images.

We usually ask our interviewees what’s the one piece of advice they would give to an artist. As you’re only just beginning your artist journey, perhaps we should ask, what help do you anticipate needing most in the coming months and years?

With the state of the world in relation to Covid-19 (this interview commenced as Boris Johnson announced the UK’s second lockdown) it’s difficult to pinpoint what kind of landscape the art-world will be in 6 months, let alone in the coming years. However, I can say in confidence that there should be, as always, more opportunities given to younger artists. I specifically want to see galleries emphasise their effort in enabling younger artists who have grown up sharing their work online to share their work in the physical world (when it is safe to do so of course).

Thank you Kieran for sharing your thoughts and hopes with us. We wish you luck and continued creativity in Norwich and beyond.

We'll be catching up with Kieran at a later date to see how things have progressed since this toughest of years.

Stay safe. Stay creative.

Team IMA

re-IMAgining the art world


ALL LINKS from the article (all instagram):

@kcookphotographer - Kieran's photography

@undercurrentzine - Kieran's zine 'Undercurrent'

@cctvchurch - Kieran's 'CCTV church' project

@daflip - Kieran's friend Philip

@languidd - The birds-eye-view satellite images of earth that has mesmerised Kieran

@gorgonstare - Dutch artist Nick Morgenbach

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