Desert Island DSLR
Mandy Barker Fine art photographer and speaker
Fine-art photographer Mandy Barker shares her thoughts
Which photographer(s), living or dead, would you like to have round for dinner? Jean Painlevé, Man Ray and Shomei Tomatsu.
What’s your favourite place on Earth? Spurn Point near Hull: a narrow three mile-long spit that’s now a nature reserve home to rare birds, deer and marine life. I’ve grown up visiting this place and have seen it change.
How would you describe your own photography?
Conceptual. My main aim is to raise awareness and educate people about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, highlighting the harmful effect on marine life and, ultimately, on ourselves.
What personal project are you currently working on?
A project to represent new scientific research into the plastic fibres from clothing being found in the bodies of fish.
What makes a good subject to photograph?
Anything that stops you in your tracks, moves you emotionally, or is something you want to let others know about. What accessory or gadget should every photographer own?
A reflector, to be able to work with light.
City or country?
City for exhibitions and people; country for space and reflection.
Which lens would you be most upset to lose?
The lens in my eye.
What was your first camera? Cosmic Symbol, and I still have it.
What’s the most expensive piece of kit you’ve ever bought?
My Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Tell us a secret about your photography. I have been obsessed with photography as far back as I can remember, and in the early 1990s I was entranced with the work of the French photographer Robert Doisneau, so I wrote him a letter. Never hearing back from him, he sadly died, but a few years later the letter was returned, unopened, and covered with addresses from all over Paris where it had been forwarded around for five years. I often think about its journey over that time.
What’s in your kit bag right now?
My DSLR and one lens – I don’t often use much else. If I wanted to create work that I felt was best represented on film, I have 35mm and medium-format cameras such as Bronica and Mamiya. The camera is only a tool: it is more important to first think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Which book should every photographer make sure they read?
Ways of Seeing by John Berger.
What words of wisdom can you give to aspiring photographers?
Try to believe in yourself and what you are doing. I’ve photographed only marine plastic debris for the past eight years. This is a long time to focus on something so specific, but I have done this because I believed in the issue and felt it was a story that needed to be told.
That I often don’t have the courage to speak to people I would really like to have a conversation with. Although I can speak confidently about my work and the issue I represent, personally I’m a very shy person, and I have missed opportunities because of this.
And finally… What is your Desert Island DSLR?
This question is ironic, because in June I will visit a real desert island as part of a research expedition to determine the effect that marine plastic debris has on such an environment, so I’m actually now considering what equipment to take to the middle of the South Pacific!
Depending on my research and ideas, I will be taking a medium-format film camera and my Canon 5D Mark III to record the trip. See Mandy’s work displayed with East Wing Gallery at Photo London, 17-20 May, and at the Triennial of Photography Hamburg from 7 June