Visual artist and creative producer Laura Dicken is passionate about telling stories and representing people genuinely and authentically.
The driving force and inspiration behind her work, both as an artist and a producer, is to make visible and celebrate the beatitude, struggles and reality of individuals, local communities and everyday life. Laura has taken on one of the 100 Masters commissions to respond to the shortlist. We wanted to find out more…
Can you tell us about your commission with 100 Masters?
The commission with 100 Masters is very exciting for me as the whole project is based around celebrating the people of the Black Country. Some of the 100 Masters are already well known and in the public eye and others are people who are not in the public sphere and may not yet have been celebrated on this scale or so visibly. The Black Country is world renowned for its ingenuity, intelligence and collective work ethic and to highlight individuals that are truly skilled and totally dedicated to what they do is an absolute pleasure. For my particular commission, I am concentrating on the Masters who are makers and I will be making photographic portraits of them in their workspaces. My aim, through this body of work, is to capture the makers and creators in the space that facilitates their mastery, the place where they work and create and bring their ingenuity and talent into the world. Spaces can tell you as much about an individual as a portrait of the actual person themselves, so I am hoping that the photographs will convey a real sense of the person, their workspace, their process and the energy of making.
What are you most excited about for the commission?
I’m really looking forward to meeting the Masters that I’ll be making portraits of. They are incredible individuals that collectively cover so many bases. It’s a real privilege to be invited into a makers space and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to capture that. I’m Black Country born and bred so it’s really important to me that the area and people are celebrated. There is so much talent and humour and compassion and sense of community in the Black Country, the people and place is really unique. I can’t wait to meet the Masters I will be working with, I can’t wait to hear about their work and creative process, I’m really excited for all of the 100 Masters to be celebrated publicly across many different platforms and I am very, very excited about the event at Starworks in November.
Tell us a little about your approach.
I decided I wanted to concentrate on the makers as making is so deeply engrained in Black Country history and culture. I was really inspired to make portraits to show the contemporary and modern aspect that is thriving in the area. The making and industrial history of the Black Country is so widely known, but there are so many amazing people, firms and companies that are world class in the area right now. Some of the stuff is mind blowing, it definitely deserves to be made visible and celebrated.
You’ve been working on a project with CBC with homeless people and engage with the public a lot with your work – why is this important to you?
‘Out of the Darkness’ is a social documentary project I’ve been working on with local oral historian Greig Campbell. Greig approached me to be involved with the project as he was moved and angered by the sharp increase in homelessness in Wolverhampton and the equally sharp decline in help and support surrounding the issue. Together we wanted to deliver a project that empowered members of the homeless community to tell their own stories through photography and oral history. We only initially intended to carry out the project in Wolverhampton but it was so successful we are now extending it to Walsall too. The response from the public, the homeless community and the brilliant support organisations that we’ve worked with such as WHO (Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach) and The Glebe Centre in Walsall has been incredible. The Wolverhampton part of the project was exhibited for five weeks at Wolverhampton Art Gallery which was amazing. The launch event was truly memorable with project participants and members of the homeless community mingling and chatting with local councillors, members of the public and artists. Greig and I both hope that the project acts as a starting point for much-needed conversations around homelessness in the Black Country and nationally. As an artist and a producer, I feel that communication is vital for tackling social issues and I personally believe that using creative platforms to bring people together, share experiences and communicate effectively around wider social issues is of benefit to everyone.
Image of nominated Master Luke Perry by Laura Dicken.