A SNAPSHOT OF TALENT
Beyond London Life caught up with Belfast-based photographer Sara Marsden at the official launch of Create Glow Ltd., where the 22 year old’s glamorous photographs of burlesque dancers caught quite a few admiring glances. Her portrait work, as one guest commented “really captures her subject’s personality” and show “a knack for snapping the perfect moment”. Here she tells us about Belfast’s creative buzz, her own route into photography and the iconic photographers that have inspired her.
Tell us about your involvement with Create Glow Ltd…
It’s an online platform for creatives to market and advertise their work. Last Friday night was the company’s official launch, with its website to launch later this month. I exhibited my work alongside other talented artists of Create Glow Ltd. to show the public the physical side of the company, its gallery. This great space is for new artists to utilise to their advantage, to put on their first shows or exhibit new work.
Is Belfast a creative place to be right now?
There is always something going on in Belfast, there always was – but more so now than ever. Belfast Culture Night is bettering itself every year, the Burlesque scene is growing and growing, you have carnivals, parades, brilliant local music…. the list goes on and on, which means there’s always something interesting to photograph. The Thin Air, an online music and culture website I contribute to, produces its first physical magazine next week; this is something that will benefit so many writers and photographers, it’s something I’m looking forward to.
What was your route into photography?
I got my first DSLR in 2007. It all started with, “You have a camera, right? Can you photograph my band?”. From that point, I gained more contacts and built on my experience. Paul McMordie of Ossia (a School of Music here), took me under his wing and hired me to photograph local gigs he put on throughout Northern Ireland. So when it came to choosing what I wanted to study at university there was no question, after my A-levels, off I went! I spent the next three years at University of Ulster getting my BA Hons in Photography, studying alongside a wonderful group of talented young photographers. I have to say it was one of the most stressful times of my life, but I also miss it desperately. When you leave university I guess you miss that push, someone constantly trying to better you and the whole feeling of being part of a community. After I graduated I reached out to other creatives, collaborating on projects and ideas, and that’s where I am today. I’ve photographed celebrities on the red carpet, conducted obscure fashion shoots fabricated in the minds of myself and Caroline Sudgen (a truly talented hair stylist), burlesque beauties, roller derby gals, bands and even cat portraits! I’ve met some incredibly amazing people – I could never have imagined being where I am today seven years ago.
What areas or subjects do you find yourself drawn to?
Gig photography is what set my on my path, so it will always be close to my heart. There’s something special about capturing that moment when a musician is completely lost in their own music. In the past two years though, I would say my main focus has been burlesque dancers. As a child, I was obsessed with the film Cabaret, practising my “Mein Herr” routine on the dining room chairs, then Moulin Rouge came along and I was absolutely enamoured. It was such a glamorous lifestyle (minus the Nazis and the TB) and a bit of an escape when life was getting a bit much. So naturally, Burlesque performers became one of my favourite subjects to photograph when I left university. All the performers I’ve met are absolute characters, beautiful both inside and out.
Who are your favourite photographers?
That’s a hard one! Definitely top of the bill, without a doubt, is Brassaï. When I was younger I came across his book Paris By Night on a bookshelf in my parent’s house. Full of images of obscure Parisian characters; thugs, prostitutes and carnival performers. I was in love the minute I saw his photographs. Ellen Von Unwerth as well – her portraits of women are absolutely stunning. I can’t forget Jim Goldberg. I came across Raised by Wolves one evening in the university library. It completely sucked me in. Now it sits on my book shelf in its protective wrapping, one of my most prized possessions.
What’s next for you then?
I don’t know where I’ll go from here, I’m taking each day as it comes. Plans that I had were slightly upturned a couple of months ago by the robbery of my mac and camera equipment. The anxiety caused by that incident meant I had to leave a house that I had made my home and my studio. Right now I’m trying to save to get my kit built up to what it was again, and I wouldn’t object to a house of my own with a nice little studio floor all to itself! I was really getting into my studio work, so now I’m having to think on my feet and do loads of location shoots. This can lead to some great ideas in itself, so I’m not complaining.
The Thin Air: