Having a word with… Blazej Marczak


Blazej Marczak is a Polish photographer living in Aberdeen who specialises in portrait and documentary photography. Since 2012 he has been working on a long-term project entitled Neighbours in which he interacts with the locality around him and creates beautiful portraits of individuals and families in their own homes. He began his project in Edinburgh and has continued in Aberdeen since moving there. The series reflects contemporary life in Scotland and a multicultural society that has been in place for generations. He also continues to document Aberdeen and its people in his most recent project, The Grey City. Marczak’s photographs reflect his acute awareness of his surroundings and document contemporary life and landscapes at a pivotal time in Scotland’s history.



Where did you study photography?

I studied at Stevenson College, Edinburgh and received my BA from the University of Abertay, Dundee.

What format do you like to shoot in and why?

I use full frame digital as this is a format that I can afford at the moment. I also love digital for its accessibility, and the low cost of use after the initial investment in a camera. I think all formats are good; it all depends on what you want to use them for. I would love to move to large format in the future as I like the rigour, the flow of working with the format and the possibility to print large without losing quality. I am using a D800 at the moment as this camera is the best body available to me for large prints from digital files.

What inspires you to take your photos?

It could be anything from a book, a chat with someone I know or someone who I just met on the street. It could be a word in a dictionary, a link to an article which I discovered in Google by coincidence. A turning to a street that I wasn’t on before. A statistical data sheet, or a painting.

How do you feel about the photography scene in Scotland today?

I know many photographers that are making excellent work and are in love with the medium. Of course, I don’t know about all of them as I am just at the beginning of my career. We have some amazing exhibitions in Scotland from time to time for sure, but I think photography as an art form is unrepresented. This is a general trend, not only in Scotland.
Unfortunately the majority of photographers have to be careful and watch the terms & conditions all the time with their pictures, as many galleries, organisations and publications are constantly trying to take advantage of their love and dedication to the medium.
Unfortunately this comes from both lesser and more established organisations. Many of them are shouting about being dedicated to photography and to being supportive for photographers, but at the same time they are relying on unpaid internships, which are mostly targeting recent graduates who can’t afford to work for free.
We can only influence the photography scene by doing the things we love and by taking a part in the activities we believe in.
By refusing to undertake unpaid jobs – falsely described as “opportunities” – and pointing out our reasons so that we can help ourselves and others in the creative industries.

My favourite place to enjoy photography is the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh which is really getting better and better, but I think we need more independent places. They seem to pop up from time to time and are offering great shows but unfortunately some of them don’t stay around for long. I used to love The Institute in Edinburgh but it is gone now.
Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow is great and Peacock Art Centre in Aberdeen is also featuring some good photographic shows time to time.

I am often getting the impression that photography as an art form is still undervalued, especially by private galleries and it is not treated as an independent art form.

It is also hard to convince the owners to show photographic prints to their audience and make them buy them.
The possibility of unlimited photographic reproduction could be behind their decisions but we have to remember that even art work in bronze, prints etc. were possible to be reproduced in many quantities over centuries. On the other hand, I am very happy to see that the independent book scene is flourishing. I think that, despite all of the challenges, we are fortunate to live in a golden age of photography. Rapid change in technology has made a huge influence on how photography is published and distributed, but we – the young photographers – have to find our own place in this constantly changing photography environment.


Ones to watch: Yasmin Soliman


This is the first post in a regular feature looking at young and undergraduate photographers in Scotland and the North of England. I hope that the series will offer a glimpse of photography that is to come, while at the same time giving young photographers the exposure they deserve.

Glasgow-based Yasmin Soliman is currently studying a BA Hons in Photography at the University of West Scotland. Yasmin specialises in fashion, documentary and portraiture photography; her work has been featured in numerous international magazines including Vogue Italia and iMute Magazine. Over the years she has developed a vast skill-set along with a strong network of Glasgow’s most talented creatives whom she has had the pleasure of working with.




Having a word with… Café Royal Books & Craig Atkinson


Craig Atkinson is an artist and lecturer at UCLan in Preston. He has become increasingly well known in photography circles for his series of photo books, published under Café Royal Books; they have recently featured photographers such as Hugh Hood, Jim Mortram and Phil Maxwell.

As well as publishing and promoting other photographers in this beautifully presented series, Atkinson takes pictures himself. A continuing subject for him is Preston Bus Station, which is also the subject of his most recent publication, Preston Bus Station Exit Town Centre.



Craig was kind enough to answer a few questions for BITE:

Where did you study?

I studied Fine Art to Masters level. I kind of found myself on that path and stuck to it. I don’t regret it, I think there is a lot of room within ‘fine art’ to manoeuvre and explore. My work has changed a lot since graduating. I did my degree at Leeds Met and my Masters at UCLan in Preston, which is where I’m now a lecturer.

What format do you like to shoot in and why?

I like taking pictures, and I like editing. So really anything is good. On the other hand I’m into tech and gadgets and testing things. At present it’s all digital. I like the freedom digital allows – purists will hate me! I like to shoot and edit and then sleep on things for a while before doing any more. I love film like I love printmaking but the processes are too slow for me. The way I do use film is my ‘Someone Else’s’ series, where I use film that’s left undeveloped in 35mm cameras.

What inspires you to create your photographs?

I like recording. I like control. I like the fact you can press a button and keep what you see. It becomes more important, perhaps, when the thing you can see no longer exists, so the photograph becomes an historical record. So I collect, hoard, record, document – whatever you might call it. I am a collector naturally I think, but I have a very hard edged minimalist side too which really battles with the collector. Digital images are great to collect, they take no room!

What inspires you to create photobooks?

Initially I wanted a way of exhibiting work quickly, that was easy to disseminate, affordable to make and buy, collectable and very well produced, leaving the production, in general, to someone else.

I used to paint big heavy abstracts, so it’s all a kind of response and opposite to that process.

I like to publish books that are a little like old National Trust type leaflets. Kind of informative precious little things. They started as zines but I don’t really see them as zines any more. I’m not sure why, perhaps they are less DIY. I see them as small books.

How do you feel about the photography scene in the North today?

I don’t really know. It’s strange really, I’m not into scenes. I like to make the work I want to make; if it falls into a scene, style, place etc it’s accidental. I work with photographers from all over the world so I’m not much good with specific local knowledge! UK photography seems to be very London centric, as does UK creativity. It shouldn’t be, it’s just a hangover from earlier last century I guess with the big art schools. I like living and working in the North though, it gives me more room and London is only a train ride away. Scenes though, I don’t know, I’m sure there must be lots happening somewhere. Liverpool have some good shows, Bluecoat, Open Eye…’Soft Estate’ at Bluecoat is excellent.