Photo: © Alice Dempsey
Docu Interview: Alice Dempsey
What’s your favorite drink?
Genuinely my favourite drink is water, I know that sounds really boring but even when I was little I drank so much water.
Who are you?
I’m Alice Dempsey a photographer based in Bath and Yorkshire. I am 27 years old and photography has been my passion and love for as long as I can remember. I am primarily a documentary, portrait and editorial photographer. I studied at Bath Spa University graduating with a first in BA Photography.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I was born and brought up in North Yorkshire, I had rural upbringing. At one point I lived out on the North Yorkshire Moors with my parents and younger sister. My mum encouraged me to appreciate all that I saw, whether it be on a small or grand, this was really heightened by living amongst nature as a young child. My mum inherited this observant nature from my Grandpa as did I. In my family album there is a photo of my mum by the kitchen sink, this photo was taken by me at age three on my mum’s Olympus trip camera that she had given to me.
How did you become a photographer?
My mother gave me her old Olympus Trip Camera at the age of three as I was showing an interest and thus began my obsession for photography and documenting the world around me. When I was younger it was photos of family gatherings, self portraits and nature. Later as a teen it was every party and social gathering and it just progressed from there. Later on I was training to become a teacher and realised that Photography was my main passion and I had a need and want to expand my knowledge and be surrounded by like minded people with the same passion as my own. I quit teaching after the first year, worked for two years and then began my photography course in Bath.
Why did you choose photography over other mediums?
I felt for me I was able to concentrate more through a lens than painting or any other medium. I felt it was the best way for me to express myself and use my eye to show the world. I couldn’t create the right visions through any other medium the way I could with the camera. I love people and I felt I could tell peoples story or a narratives the best through the lens of a camera.
Do you sell prints?
What is the most interesting project you have been working with?
I believe my most interesting project was my personal Project Goodnight God Bless. Which is a ongoing project with my family. Goodnight God Bless is a body of work which surrounds the themes of religion, motherhood, grief and gender. The project tells the story of how the majority of the men in my family have passed away, and how my cousin has just recently given birth to the first male baby in four generations. I was brought up by a very strong matriarchal family myself, so this project sets to document how my family are now bringing up this new little boy in the very same way.
What do you usually do when you start a new project?
When starting a new project I will get to know my subjects, whether that be days, hours or minutes asking questions and breaking down that barrier. I will also often explain what project I am looking to do and why and this helps establish what I am trying to create.
What advice would you give to young emerging photographers?
Your photographic voice is going to change over the years, I often look at work even last month and feel like my work has changed. This is all part of the process. Also nothing ventured nothing gained as cringe as it sounds, reach out to people, other photographers you admire and make connections it’s so worthwhile.
What has been the most touching moment in your career as a photographer?
I did a project about a man in my final year of university and about his amazing life. He came to uni and told his story in-front our project and prints and took the book I made and showed it to friends, family and anyone who would listen. Last year unfortunately he passed away after he contracted COVID 19 and I was able to meet his family socially distanced and saw the joy they had now having the book and seeing photos they had never seen of their Dad/Grandfather before. We had a wonderful time sharing stories and creating even more memories even though he wasn’t around.
What are the greatest benefits of being a photographer?
Being able to share peoples stories and creating work that makes an impact on a person for sure. I feel photography can connect people and convey a message so beautifully.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on a project at Farleigh Hungerford Swim Club, thought to be the oldest river swim club in the country. It was founded in 1933 and many believe it to be the home of wild swimming. I’ve been a member myself for two years and since covid this summer I have seen an increase in members due to more people escaping their homes. I have begun photographing people who swim here and it’s been really nice to interact safely and be with people who share the same love for nature and wild swimming as I do. One common theme I have found when speaking to the wild swimmers, is mental health and how swimming here directly helps people’s mindsets during this trying time.
Visual storytelling is very powerful, what do you think makes a good story in Documentary Photography?
I think a good story can be honestly anything if its shot well and the photographer gets to know the story or people connected with the story. A connection to the story is for sure needed.
Many young photographers are asking the question: is it possible to earn an income as a Documentary Photographer - What do you think?
I think eventually it is, however it is a struggle and its always good to have many guns in your arsenal so to speak.
What do you think about Docu Magazine?
I think its a great magazine and platform for photographers to get their name out and share meaningful work.
What is your biggest challenge as a photographer right now? (Other than COVID-19)
I think getting into a rut and getting that motivation to get out shooting my personal projects as they do give me the most joy when I get into it.
What would you like to accomplish as a photographer?
I would be like to earn a living fully and soley with my documentary work. I would love to be able to share more peoples stories and be able to dedicate more time to it.
Top 3 books you recommend people to read?
John Bergers – Ways of Seeing
Sian Davey’s – Looking for Alice
Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps Score
Anything else you would like to add?
I truly believe with photography so accessible now don’t ever forget what you are trying to show or make with your work it is worthy and just adding to the world. Never lose faith in your work or let comparing yourself to others to get the better of you.
Are You A Photographer?
We are constantly looking for documentary photography projects, photo essays, and single images from talented visual storytellers.