Capturing Life in the Woods
Talented 26-year-old photographer Fern Leigh Albert’s undertaking of her project ‘Wild Wood’ has received much acclaim – just this year she was shortlisted for the Ideas Tap Photographic Award. I got a chance to speak to her about the unusual series which extends beyond purely being a piece of work and into a larger part of a new lifestyle choice.
How did your passion for photography develop?
A little while ago I lived with my granddad who was a photographer in World War 2. I always had a passion for photography but it wasn’t until he passed away that I started to take it more seriously. Ultimately, whenever I achieve something visually that I’m proud of I think of him. He was, and still is, a great inspiration to me.
What inspires and influences you as an artist?
I feel extremely lucky to have some very creative and talented friends. They are a constant source of inspiration, support and advice. It’s great having people around you to bounce ideas off, especially if a few of them are brutally honest.
There’s something very distinct about your work – would you say you have a specific style?
It’s very difficult to see what you would call a ‘style’ in your own work. I tend to just work honestly and intuitively which seems produce the outcomes I’m after. At the moment I’m incredibly interested in people’s connection to nature. I would say the natural world is a recurring theme in my imagery and my personal relationship to it comes through in my work.
Tell us about your project ‘Wild Wood’ – how did it come about and is it still on-going?
At the beginning of this year I became a trial member of the low-impact, off-grid project Steward Community Woodland. We live in a 32 acre woodland in handmade structures, produce our own electricity and siphon water from a spring. Wild Wood is a documentation of my time there and is a project that will continue for as long as I remain a full time resident of the community. I hope I can inspire people to live closer to the land and make connections with the natural world.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Being vegetarian. My boyfriend hunts for wild game and usually ends up butchering it in our one-roomed round house. I haven’t got anything against him sourcing his own food, but it’s a little hard to stomach when he’s chopping the head off a rabbit in the same sink you brush your teeth in.
How do you stay creatively motivated?
I stay motivated by choosing to photograph subjects or people that inspire me. This summer I spent some time drinking tea with a very old hermit. I took his portrait and he told me some stories about being isolated and alone. I wasn’t with him for very long but it was a meeting I won’t forget for a long time. That’s the beauty of photography, it allows you to have these unique experiences that you might never have had if you hadn’t asked the question; ‘excuse me, can I take your picture?’
What is the best thing someone has said to you about your work?
That some images were gory. I had never thought of my images like that. That’s what’s great about exhibiting work – you get people’s views on what would otherwise be a very self reflective, introverted process.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring photographers?
Photograph subjects that you are passionate about, travel, speak to strangers. Be open and honest and you can’t go wrong. Keep producing work, don’t give up.
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
I am currently working towards Wild Wood as a book. I hope to continue exhibiting the series and at some point create an interactive show with the project. My long term plan is to live in the woods until I’m old and grey and my teeth are falling out, but of course you never know where the future will take you. Most of all I want to keep meeting interesting, inspiring people and share their stories.