Documentary photographer David Severn delivers guest lecture to NTU Journalism and Photography students

David’s work looks at ex-mining communities in Nottinghamshire and North East Derbyshire

David Severn talking through his project 'Thanks Maggie'
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David Severn talking through his project 'Thanks Maggie'

Undergraduate and postgraduate students from the Centre of Broadcasting & Journalism and the School of Art & Design recently attended a talk and networking session with documentary photographer David Severn. The talk allowed students with an interest in photography to learn more about his style of documentary photography, and offered an invaluable opportunity to ask David questions about his work and his route into the profession.

David regularly guest lectures on the Photojournalism module as part of BA (Hons) Journalism and BA (Hons) Broadcast Journalism, as well as the Visual Journalism module in MA Documentary Journalism. However, this opportunity was the first time many of the students had the opportunity to learn about David’s career so far, and ask him questions about his life and work. It was also a useful way for students from other disciplines to gain an insight into this practice.

David discussed his background growing up in a mining family in Mansfield, describing how this has influenced his work. His formative memories include following his Dad around, who was both a miner and an Elvis impersonator in the local working men’s clubs. David was drawn to the people he met, feeling inspired by their work and the ways in which their love for entertainment such as music and dance fed into mining communities. His work is autobiographical and his photos offer an intimate snapshot into the lives of people in these communities.

Whilst studying at Nottingham College, David was inspired by photography books he found by the likes of Paul Graham and Chris Killip, who focused on industrialisation in their work. This eventually led to the creation of his ongoing project Thanks Maggie, which focuses on ex-mining communities in Nottinghamshire and North East Derbyshire. The project builds a narrative around these communities, featuring both industrial landscapes and the people living in them.

The integration of industrialisation and mining with culture such as music, dance and poetry is a key element of David’s work, as this is a vital and yet much-overlooked aspect of these communities. He discussed with the students some of the personal stories of people he’d met, bringing the photographs to life along the way. The group discussed the ethical issues in documenting the working class and the ways in which David takes photos as part of the community, rather than outside it.

The students had the opportunity to ask questions and network with both David and each other at the end of the session, which enabled them to learn about routes into a career in photojournalism and photography in general. The talk was an eye opening and inspirational evening for staff and students alike, who learned more about David and his work, as well as gaining an insight into the communities that have been affected by the decline of the mining industry.

Documentary photographer David Severn delivers guest lecture to NTU Journalism and Photography students

Published on 8 April 2019
  • Category: Current students; School of Art & Design; School of Arts and Humanities

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