Student Spotlight: Grace Gray

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Student Spotlight chats with former Mango Lab students. It’s been hustling at our HQ this summer with teens. We managed to interview one of our regular summer students – Grace Gray. She talks about Banksy, why social media is a fad, and how growing up in Spain and spending summers in England inspires her photography.

Why did you initially get into photography?
I guess it was because I had a camera and I was fiddling about with it. One time, I went camping and I was taking photos, and thought that I would like to know exactly what I was doing.

What are you studying now?
I do Latin, Psychology, Spanish, Catalan, and English.

What course(s) have you done with The Mango Lab?
Well, this was my fourth year with them. The first one I did was the Beginner’s Course, after that I did the Portrait course, and the following year I did Secret London. Most recently, I did a one-to-one tutorial – it was more writing than photography.

What have been the most enjoyable elements of the courses?
Doing the courses I saw London differently.

How long have you been photographing for?
Four years.

Are there any photographs you’ve taken which you’re quite pleased with?
I always try to think back and do better. I don’t think I’m really good or anything. I just really enjoy it. We went to Trafalgar Square one year and we took photographs of a street musician – I think I got some pretty good ones. I think all the group went around him, and we were all taking photos of him. He was pretty chuffed at that.

How would you describe your approach to photography?
I like to carry my camera around, but I don’t usually go out with the idea of taking photos. I like to have my camera on me.

How often are you using your camera?
Not when I’m at school or anything. Usually in the summer and on holidays.

Is there anywhere in the world you would love to photograph?
New Zealand and Australia. My parents got married there and I have their photo album from when they were there. I thought it would be amazing to photograph the wildlife.

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Is there a particular genre of photography you prefer?
I like wildlife photography because I usually go camping in the mountains, or we usually go up to France in the countryside. I live right next to the sea and woods, so I usually take photos of that because there’s always something different. For instance, one morning I was walking my dog before school and I went into the woods. It was a misty day and the sun had just come up, and the second I got to the woods you could see that it was kind of shimmering – all the bushes were shimmering. It hadn’t rained or anything. Spiderwebs had caught droplets of water. I had to run back to my house to get my camera because it was so pretty.

Other than the technical skills you’ve gained from photography what have you learnt from it?
I’ve learned it’s not just about clicking a button, but it’s about capturing the moment. You have to understand what you’re doing and how you want others to see what you’re seeing. To capture the moment you must have an understanding of your camera.

What do you share your photos on?
I’m not into social media. I like seeing other people’s photography. I don’t take photos to show off.

Are there any projects you’re working on?
I am doing this project on Banksy after watching a documentary. I mentioned it to my teacher who knew nothing about him. I thought everyone knew about Banksy – 1 in 30 people I spoke to knew who he was.

Are you incorporating some type of photography into this project?
I suppose. I want to take pictures of his work, but showing where they are located on the street. So, showing people walking by his work.

Do you think photography is an accessible subject for young people?
I don’t think it’s pushed as much as academic subjects. But, I think everyone photographs everything and it usually is for social media these days. They all want to share their life and they use Instagram and Facebook to share photos.

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Do you have a particular reluctance to be on social media?
I think I like capturing the moment for what it is and not posing it, or changing it, or modifying it in any way. Social media is a completely different perception of what the truth is I guess. It distorts the images.

What are your career aspirations?
I’m not sure exactly yet. But, I do know I want to carry on photographing throughout my life.

How do others usually respond to your photography?
I’m usually the one who takes my camera with me if I go to the beach or something with my friends. I’m the one who ends up taking pictures of everyone for their social media, but they don’t have the same ideas about social media as I do!

Are there any photographers you’re inspired by?
My Grandmother’s friend, Andy McGeeney, takes great wildlife photography. I think he has a book or something. He takes some really cool wildlife photos.

Being born in Spain, growing up there, and spending your summers in England, do you notice a difference in terms of the inspiration you get from both places?
Being in Girona I have the beach and I have the woods and if I turn around there’s a mountain. Basically, I’m in the wildlife. When I go to England – it’s much greener – but it doesn’t have the same type of diversity.

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Are there any other genres of photography you would be interested in?
Music photography. I remember on the course last year I met Giorgia – she was showing us photos she took of a band. I love the stuff she did. I had never really seen photos like that. The way she explained getting the job by talking to the band’s manager, and then one of her photos being used in a national paper –  I never really thought of photography like that. She kind of opened my eyes a bit.

What do you get from photography?
It gives me freedom. I take my photos for myself, but photography lets me see things from different angles.

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