The British documentary photographer Sarah Ascough likes to portray people at public spaces and events, such as dog shows, karaoke parties for the elderly, or shopping malls. In our interview she talks about what she looks for in a picture, and her relationship to fellow Brit Martin Parr.
What do you want to capture in a photograph?
I’ve always wanted to show the world as I see it. I’m dyslexic and photography has given me the opportunity to express myself without using words. I’ve always been fascinated by people and the lighter side of life.
How did you start out?
I’m married to a photographer; but it wasn’t until 2014 that I started to take photographs myself. My husband needed an extra photographer and asked me if I would like to have a go at shooting some pictures. This surprised me, but I’m glad I said yes. Photography has been my life ever since.
You often portray people at events such as dog shows, variety performances or on film sets. What’s your motivation behind this?
I like to go and photograph things which I’m genuinely interested in. I’ve never had a plan, just a natural curiosity about life and people.
Considering the above, I guess opportunities to work were less during the Corona lockdown. How did you deal with the situation?
Unfortunately, we are still in lockdown in the UK. My work came to an abrupt halt in March. I’ve been shooting a lot of pictorial and landscape images on the beach next to my home, which has been okay; but it doesn’t give me the same buzz as my normal work.
Seeing your body of work, one automatically has to think of Martin Parr. What is your relationship to him?
I first saw Martin Parr’s work at a Tony Ray-Jones exhibition. Ray-Jones was someone I identified with when I first started shooting. I’ve met Martin a couple of times, and when I completed my Showfield project, I sent him a book and a note asking if he would look at it and give me his opinion. I wasn’t expecting a reply. I was delighted when he sent me an email saying that he liked it, and was adding it to his foundation library.
Do you think there is a British way of seeing life/photography?
I think there are certain photographers that have explored the more eccentric side of British life over the years, and this is where the idea of a British style of photography has come from. British people are quite funny, and we have a lot of customs which are uniquely ours, which photographers are naturally drawn to. From a personal point of view, I love England and its people and I tend to concentrate on that.
What Leica camera/s are you using? What’s your experience with them?
I’m using a chrome M9 which is my main camera, and a black M9-P. I love the simplicity of the camera, and the quality of the files, particularly when it comes to black and white. The cameras are also quite unobtrusive, which helps when working with people.
You often take rather wide shots. Which camera and technique do you use for these images?
My M9 with a 28mm Summicron-ASPH. I use a 28mm Brightline Finder for composing the image, and I like to use hyper-focal focusing for when I’m shooting outside. I prefer the wide-angle because I like my pictures to feel like I’m in the middle of them. I like working really close.
What are your next projects?
I’m hoping to pick up the project I started before Coronavirus, which is based on retired people and the clubs and societies they attend. After that, I want to photograph a circus; but that will probably be next year.
Sarah Ascough is an internationally published documentary photographer based in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Her work reflects her love of people, her eye for composition, and her sense of light and form. Her photographs invite the viewer to look beyond the obvious and explore the deeper narrative of the image. Sarah’s pictures have been published in Hello, OK!, Elle, InStyle, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, USA Today, Lancashire Life, London Evening Standard, Metro, The Sun, The Mirror, The Mail Online, Practical Photography, and Amateur Photographer. Her first book, Showfield, currently resides in the prestigious Martin Parr Foundation Library.