Student Profile: Simon Johnson

MA student, Simon Johnson, has recently resolved and exhibited a project that he has been working on. The work revolves around the theme of the Human Condition and the notion of self in a hugely globalised world.

SJohnson GW Solo Exhibition

Simon’s thoughts behind his project:

“The world is vast. Just a few short years ago the Earth’s human population exceeded 7 billion and in 2024 it is expected to reach a staggering 8 billion. It is easy to feel insignificant.

Humanity has constructed great structures; do we not feel as a God must feel? As we stand in our cities and gaze up in wonder and awe at these structures, do we not also feel ant-like? The world has grown too big for us and it also feels like it is shrinking at the same time. We are all out-of-scale with the world in which we live.

At the turn of the century, a new revolution dawned: The information age. Things began to change, which is poignantly marked by the 9/11 disasters. The destruction of one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments coincides with our turning away from windows to stare at computer screens. We began to wonder at the boundless possibilities offered by the virtual world.

The world has become unsettled and is unsettling. Everything changes at ever-increasing speeds that it is hard to keep track of the problems we’ve got. This feeling of being helpless seems justified. The question that we now ponder after we consider human’s unpredictable, irresponsible and destructive nature is ‘what difference can one person make?’

My work tackles this common defence against change to illustrate that small actions do matter and they amount to big outcomes. I use miniature people to reflect our sense of disorientation but also to draw the viewer in. I needed the work to be visually engaging because tackling green issues and sustainability is often perceived as having a stigma attached and clichéd. I tried to focus on an element of humour and wonder to keep the audience engaged.”

Little Giants – 6 digital prints, Student Union – Atrium, 10th – 14th February 2014

Simon also studied the BA in Photography at UCLan, which was where many of the themes he is exploring now, were incubated:

“It was a difficult decision in deciding whether to further my education with a postgraduate degree or go straight into work after graduating in 2013. If I’m honest, I still had a great deal of uncertainty about the future and what I wanted to achieve. Added to which, financing the course was no easy feat and I had no job secured that could pay for it. I admit I was very fearful of ‘entering the real world’ and how to put my degree to use. I decided in the end that the risk was worth it.

It’s now the beginning of 2014 and I’ve just started the second module of my MA. I found the perfect job to help fund my work and course; I volunteer within the student union for various roles; I’ve just been accepted to photograph a new dog-training book aimed at children; and I photograph for the Student Union and Green Ladder Project. I’ve also won a bursary to fund my first solo exhibition for Green Week. Things are finally slotting into place and I know I made the right decision.

During my final year of my undergraduate degree I started to do more voluntary work to improve my skills. I was a Green Impact Auditor for a day in which I audited various departments in the university to see if they fulfilled the criteria for being awarded for their sustainability efforts. This prepared me for my new role this year as a Green Impact Project Assistant in which I help Debbie Dearnley as she works towards silver in the school of journalism and digital communication. It was through this voluntary work that I learned of a bursary to fund a project over Green Week. I jumped at the chance and wrote a detailed proposal for a photography exhibition, and several weeks later I found out I was successful. ”

Simon’s website:  Thephilosophicalphotographer.co.uk

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About fieldnotesuclan

Produced by the BA and MA Photography programmes at UCLAN - the University of Central Lancashire
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