In the last 5 years I’ve moved countries, got divorced, fallen in love with photography and done an MA. Photography has been a way of making sense of all that.
Nicola Morley is a portrait photographer based in London and Lancashire, working for magazines and private clients.
Her work has been shortlisted for this year’s Royal Academy Summer Show, Portrait of Britain in 2018 and 2019. And next year she’ll be working with the FORMAT photo festival.
WHY IS PERSONAL WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Some of my projects are deeply personal and cathartic, this most recent one – A Glass of Water – for example, and the project COERCION.
Some are more observational, like The Winds of Change. But the thread is that they all examine the human condition – what it’s like to be that person in that environment. We can all relate to that.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL PROJECT?
“A Glass of Water”, is about life with my mother as her health deteriorates with a lung disorder.
In November 2019 I moved in with her to assist her with things that she found difficult. Our relationship had always been tempestuous and in the beginning, the move proved to be explosive. My mother’s health deteriorated and then in early 2020 corona virus seeped into our world. We became isolated. Our only visitor was Laura the gardener who came every 2 weeks bringing a wave of much needed energy laughter and chat.
Before the project she had resisted me taking her image, but during this time she let me in to take the most intimate of projects. Through a mutual need and understanding we found our level. These images are a record of this time, living together in her cottage in rural Lancashire.
My mother died in August. I was with her at the end, which was important.
THESE ARE VERY INTIMATE PICTURES OF YOUR FAMILY LIFE, DID YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT PUBLISHING THEM?
When we took the picture, “Grandma on Christmas Day”, there was a lot of resistance in the room and I had to push Mummy to let me do it. In the end she was so proud of how it turned out and the recognition it received. “A glass of Water” was her gift to me. She never complained, even when she felt terrible. It was our story together. I’m deeply grateful to her. I know others will have a similar story. We’re not unique in that way.
WHAT DID YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH IT?
Everybody has a mother, and the mother-daughter relationship is intense for many people. People of my age have mothers of my mother’s age, who were brought up during and after WW11, when a stiff upper lip and a ‘just-get-on-with it’ attitude was the norm.
In the beginning the project was snapshots but it developed into something more important. The project won’t change how things are done, but it may enable someone to accept that even if there is strife in a mother-daughter relationship, you can find the essence of good.
WHAT’S BEEN THE OUTCOME OF THE PROJECT?
I’ve been amazed at the amount of interest the project has attracted. The BBC considered filming me for programme about three shortlists for the Royal Academy because an earlier picture I had done of her is shortlisted this year and they liked the development with this project, although we didn’t go ahead.
I have used it the showcase project from the East Meets West Masterclass, a collaboration with GRAIN in Birmingham and Format in Derby. It’s early days yet, but I want to work on a projection with sound exhibit and it at Format 2021.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
I find it hard to concentrate on reading. I am dyslexic and unless my mind in calm and I am reading something really good, it’s easy for me to drift. Next to my bed is The Diary of AnaÏs Nin, edited by Gunther Stuhlmann which was recommended by a good soul.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE GALLERY OR ART WEBSITE
Since spending more time in the north I have been visiting Bradford’s Impressions Gallery which is an excellent space. I’ve always loved the V&A, especially now with it’s new dedicated photography gallery.
WHO’S YOUR PROFESSIONAL SOURCE OF INSPIRATION?
How long have you got? Harry Borden, who gave me excellent tips during a portfolio review. Sian Davey, Alys Tomlinson, Anthony Luvera, Colin Pantall, Craig Eastern and Clare Strand, to name only a few.
A LOT OF YOUR INSPIRATIONS ARE FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHERS, DO YOU THINK WOMEN HAVE BEEN OVERLOOKED BY THE PHOTOGRAPHIC WORLD?
Of course women photographers have been ignored! There are many fantastic people who are changing that f22, Del Barrett and Hundred Heroines, and there are plenty of competitions specifically for women. This is great. But better would be a time when it’s not an issue and there’s an even playing field.