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Solo Photographic Exhibition, ‘Happy Slapped by a Pigeon Wing’ by Amanda Jackson

I’ve known Amanda for many years, mainly through her work in Central Library, but I’ve been following her with interest, on social media, for the last couple of years, ever since she enrolled with Richard Oughton on a beginners’ course and started her photographic journey.

Amanda’s work is very impressive. I love the way she engages with the wildlife in Stanley Park, something which comes across strongly in her images, which are intimate, sensitive, and often amusing.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Amanda about her work and the exhibition, and got some interesting answers.

I can see you are a creative person, but I believe you’re relatively new to photography. Tell me how your interest came about?

My interest in photography came about through discovering the healing power of nature for mental health.  I had been taking walks in the park and green spaces in Blackpool, and found it to be very calming spending time among the trees and wildlife. After a while I began to take photos, and noticed familiar little faces popping up, so I began to photograph them as an extra layer to that “therapy”.

The process of motivating myself to go outdoors, experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of nature, tuning out road sounds to listen to bird calls, noticing a bird or squirrel vying for my attention and a tasty bit of food, setting up my camera for the light and movement, waiting for the perfect second for the shot, then finally going home to edit the images I find almost meditative.

© Amanda Jackson

What photography training have you had, if any?

Soon after picking up my first digital camera I took a short Beginners Digital Photography evening class with the amazing Richard Oughton at Blackpool and The Fylde College. I was actually so green he had to tell me to take the lens cap off in order to take a photo. I also tried putting the SD card in the CD drive! Poor Richard… Unfortunately, Covid struck during the course, so I didn’t get to finish it, but I carried on putting into practice the things I had learned, and built upon it during my daily “one hour exercise” walks during lockdown. When you take a photography course you can be taught certain technical skills, but ultimately you develop (did I mean to pun? Maybe) your own practice, skills and style by just keeping picking up your camera and trying different things until it seems to click (punning again). I find I learn new things every time I go out, or every time I talk to another photographer.

What’s your favourite genre of photography, both to look at and to photograph yourself?

My favourite genre of photography to look at… That’s a tough one as for me it’s not necessarily about the genre, but whether the subject, lighting, colours or mood make me feel something.
My favourite genre of photography to take myself is nature and wildlife. It’s constantly moving and changing, and while this is challenging it’s always rewarding when you get that beautifully lit flower or that squirrel looking directly down the lens whilst doing a ridiculous pose.
Photographing wildlife has brought me into contact with some real little characters that I now consider friends, some of whom you can see in this exhibition.

How would you describe your style?

Iwould describe my style as dark with a touch of humour. Without intention, my images always tend to end up on the dark side, but I try to balance it by bringing out the subject’s whimsical or cute side.

How did you make the choices for your exhibition?

Making the choices for this exhibition was incredibly difficult! At first, I didn’t think I would actually have enough images, but once I started trying to choose, I realised that my connections to the wildlife were going to make it an almost impossible task. I couldn’t possibly put Mork the robin in without also putting Mindy in.. In the end though I chose my absolute favourite characters and balanced those images with ones that I felt proud of aesthetically.

© Amanda Jackson

How did the exhibition come about?

The exhibition came as a complete surprise.
I was asked if I would like to put my images up next when the current exhibition came down. As is my nature, I said yes straight away, and worried about it afterwards…This technique seems to work for me, otherwise I would overthink everything and not do anything!

Do you have specific artists/photographers that you admire? Have any of them influenced you in this project?

There are tonnes of artists and photographers that I admire, and new ones popping up all the time! In Blackpool we are spoiled for choice for talented artists and photographers, and I feel privileged to have got to know so many on a personal level and to call them friends.  I do have to mention the photographer who has had the biggest influence on what I do though, and that is Elizabeth Gomm. Her love of the local wildlife was a huge influence on me photographing and getting to know the individual characters.  I also can’t not mention (again) Richard Oughton. His photography itself is so technically brilliant, and his use of light is swoonsome, but more than that he captures his subjects in a way that is vibrant, sensitive, and alive all at the same time.
There are so many individual artists I could mention, but I don’t think words on paper would do them justice.

Have you got any future photography plans?

For future photography plans I am hoping to enter a collaborative piece into a show quite soon and am working on ideas for that at the moment.  I do have some goals to work towards, and one of those is to travel to photograph more far flung wildlife. There are other artists I would love to work with in the future too, so watch this space..

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your work?

I am hoping to have more of a digital presence in the near future for my work. Until then though, do come and have a coffee and chat at the Number 5 cafe.

Amanda Jackson’s Solo Photographic Exhibition, ‘Happy Slapped By A Pigeon Wing’ is upstairs at the No Five Café, Cedar Square, Blackpool, FY1 1BP.
Preview: Thursday 14th October, 3pm-4.30pm
All welcome.

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