NAME Debby Besford
JOB Documentary Photographer
WEBSITE Debby Besford
PROJECT The Venetian Waterways
The desire and drive to create new work is like being in a relationship with yourself, your camera and the world around you.
Debby Besford is a freelance documentary photographer, who has workedfor over 25 years in the industry. She’s also a part-time university lecturer and has been teaching photography for a similar amount of time. She divides her time between commissioned work, part-time teaching and personal work.
Debby’s clients include the Museum of Youth Culture, Conde Nast Traveller Magazine and The Wellcome Trust. She was also part of the team who shot the 209 Women project and her work has been exhibited at the Festival Pil’Ours in France, the Retina World Photography Show, and as part of Photomonth in London.
WHY IS PERSONAL WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Self-initiated projects have always been at the forefront of what I do. Personal work makes me feel motivated and alive, which gives me the energy and fulfilment that is necessary to carry out a personal project.
The whole process begins with curiosity that leads onto researching a subject. It’s about connecting with humanity and observing and capturing the details, a portrait or series of images. The projects can sometimes last years or a few months, depending on the nature of the work. Personal work is your own interpretation not anyone else’s, it’s part of who you are.
You have to remain loyal and faithful, take some risks. It’s about engaging on a deeper level, total commitment, involving yourself, self motivation, discipline, organisation, traveling, winning the trust of other people, and being involved by a genuine desire and passion to creatively encapsulate and communicate to an audience.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL PROJECT – HOW DID IT COME ABOUT AND WHY DID YOU SHOOT IT?
Last year, I worked on a 12 month, self-funded photography project about the regeneration of The Venetian Waterways in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK.
I spent many hours as a youngster, with my brother and mother, playing, enjoying picnics and taking boat rides around the waterways. The Venetian Waterways became a familiar place for us at weekends, and years later I found myself revisiting and taking photographs, mainly for nostalgic reasons. It holds happy memories and I wanted to creatively document the regeneration process from beginning to end, as a celebration for the space to be enjoyed once again by local residents, after many years of it’s history and the latter years of erosion.
The postcard series evolved through my research: while documenting the stages of regeneration, I discovered my late father’s postcard collection of Norfolk on the Venetian Waterways. I took a selection of the postcards to locate the places they were once photographed. The idea of positioning the postcards and discovering the spot where they were once photographed, gave the images a feeling of significance and a new lease of life. This became a fascinating journey of discovery, connecting the past with the present.
I met so many amazing people who contributed to the project, including, construction workers, gardeners and projects managers and volunteers.
Debby and her brother Carl at the Venetian Waterways
ARE YOU WORKING ON A NEW PERSONAL PROJECT?
I am working on completing a five-year project on the lives of Female Champion Roller Skaters, called Artistic Roller Skating. This stems from my own history as a competitive Artistic Roller Skater when I was a teenager.
The initial idea of photographing skaters in their homes came from my past experiences of having a private moment at home, posing with my skates on and trophies in hand, for my proud parents. My objective is to highlight this often forgotten sport of Artistic Roller Skating, which is often overshadowed by Ice Skating, by creatively documenting these young talented female skaters.
I made many visits to the rink and the skaters homes, which helped me get to know each individual and explore, in-depth, the emotional challenges each one faces. The dedication, athleticism and commitment has empowered and shaped them, achieving national and international recognition.
‘The Jump series’, explores each skater being photographed at a high shutter speed. The physical strength, skill, emotion and facial expressions are captured, revealing each sportswoman in the moment of intense concentration – an act of boldness and determination. Slow motion video clips of each skater will be included later in the series. The final gala images, at their rink, captures the in-between moments of the skaters and the judges, behind the scenes. The rink has now been demolished and the skaters are hoping to find another space to practice.
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT?
Podcasts: United Nations of Photography. Very informative and inspirational.
Books: Foster by Clare Keegan
WHAT GADGET OR TOOL COULDN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT
Fujifilm XT-3, Mamiya 6.
WHO’S YOUR PROFESSIONAL SOURCE OF INSPIRATION?
Susan Meiselas, Vivian Maier, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, Cristina Garcia Rodero
Everyday occurrences and my creative friends and family.