Interview: Anthony Luvera

Many of our academics originally came from industry and Anthony Luvera, Course Director for BA Photography is no stranger to the ‘ins and outs’ of the photography industry.

We interviewed him to ask where his passion for photography came from; about his recent projects and for his tips on taking self-portraits.

Where did your love of photography start?

When I was 14 years old a teacher at school gave some equipment to my best friend and me, and we set up darkrooms in the bathrooms of our homes. We taught ourselves how to develop film and print black and white photographs, we then began advertising photography courses in our local newspaper. We soon had adults arriving at the front door looking rather confused when they realised they’d signed up to be taught photography by two teenage boys!

A few years later I applied to go to university to study a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. I did an option module in Photography and was so inspired by the photography lecturers that I changed my program of study to BA Photomedia. From that moment on I saw myself as a photographer – not just a student – and threw myself into the course and my career.

What is the most memorable project you’ve completed so far? Why?

This is a tough question. I have had a varied portfolio career as a photographer for over twenty years. I’ve worked in fashion, theatre, commercial photography, art, documentary and education. It’s the work I’ve been doing since 2002 with homeless people in cities and towns across the UK – including London, Belfast, Colchester and Brighton – that is at the core of my practice now.

Assembly is a project of mine working with over 50 homeless people living in Brighton between 2013 and 2014. This body of work is composed of photographs made by participants, Assisted Self-Portraits, digital sound recordings, and an installation of research about support services provided by councils across the UK. I even worked with a community choir of people recovering from addiction issues and homelessness as part of this project – which was great fun!

Much of my work involves working with subjects as participants to collaborate and co-create work about their lives and the things they are interested in. Another project I recently created is called Not Going Shopping, which focuses on the experience of queer people living in Brighton and Hove. As a gay man, creating this work seemed to me to be a useful way to further my inquiry into collaboration and at the same time provide an opportunity to confront my own views of queerness. I’ve recently returned from the Not Going Shopping exhibition on the streets of Malmo in Sweden, where we also produced a 16-page newspaper about the work that was distributed freely across the streets of Malmo and Copenhagen.

You focus mainly on self-portraiture. What do you find the most interesting thing about photographing self-portraits? What 3 tips should students remember when taking self-portraits?

I have explored self-portraiture in my work a lot over the years. Mostly though it has been through facilitating subjects to create their own self-portraits, rather than me photographing myself
– although I have done this too. I call this work ‘Assisted Self-Portraits’ and ‘Collaborative Self-Portraits’. Sharing my skills with subject participants is at the core of my practice as an artist and in many ways this comes out of an interest in the critiques of documentary and community photography.

When creating self-portraits or any kind of portrait really, I’d suggest the following three things:

1. Keep it simple – the composition and all of the technical elements you use to create the images.
2. Consider what story you want to tell – all photographs tell stories and all photographers are storytellers. Even though photographs may seem to tell truths about places, people and events, what they do best is spark the imagination of the people they are created for. Your role as a photographer is to guide your audience to think about the things you want to say through your images.
3. Play! Have fun – photography is a process of experimentation. Take loads of images and every time you press the shutter, explore another view on your subject by getting closer, including or excluding different elements in the frame, or changing your point of view.

All photographs are the culmination of a series of decisions you make about how you use the equipment and how you relate to your subject. It’s decisions like these that are like the words on the pages of the stories you tell through your images.