UWE Bristol graduate photographer gets national recognition for amazing photos of nuns and street scenes

Issue date: 30 November 2011

A graduate from UWE Bristol, Ibolya Feher, is getting significant recognition for her work. She was runner up in the Guardian Student Media Awards Student Photographer of the Year and a finalist in the London Street Photography Festival earlier this year. Ibolya was also a finalist in the South West Graduate Photography Prize organised by Foto Now.

Her amazing photographs can be viewed on her blog

The Guardian prize was awarded for a series of intimate observations of the daily routines and environment of a community of nuns, the sisters of a Carmelite Monastery in Cornwall.

Ibolya said, “'Sisters of Sclerder' is a photography project bringing together my long-term interest in everyday life and spirituality. During this project I worked closely with the Sisters of a Carmelite Monastery in Cornwall. The Carmelite order is one of the oldest and strictest among the female contemplative orders. Sclerder Abbey is an enclosed monastery where outsiders are allowed only on rare occasions. Apart from the two recreation times the sisters spend their day in prayer and working in silence, only talking when it is necessary.

“My work explores monastic life as an alternative way of living at the beginning of the 21st century in Britain. As our contemporary society is driven by materialism and is ever more homogenised, it is increasingly challenging to find alternative, more spiritual lifestyles. The nuns take vows of obedience, poverty and chastity and dedicate their life to live in unity with God and to pray for the world. As a community their simple but strict lifestyle allows them to seek harmony and happiness."

Jim Campbell, Programme Manager of Photography at UWE Bristol, said, “During her time at UWE Ibolya made the most of her considerable talents by taking advantage of the extensive facilities on offer. Her work stimulated great debate after the London degree show amongst some established names in the photography industry. She has a rare ability to bring together strong concepts with equally captivating aesthetics and clearly has the potential to become a very successful practitioner.”

Ibolya says that she really enjoyed the course at UWE, “As a mature student I believe that I was focused and I was given plenty of freedom to follow subjects that interested me. I have always been interested in religion and spirituality and I think it is something that we don't talk about much these days. The series of photographs of the nuns at the Carmelite Monastery is a documentary project looking at the everyday life of a 'hidden' community. I was lucky to get access – I simply called the prioress who was happy to invite me into the monastery.

“Although unrestricted access couldn't be granted in respect for the sisters who didn't want to break their hermetic life we managed to find a way for me to work without disturbing the natural flow of life in the monastery. I was struck by the peace that surrounds the nuns and the graceful way of carrying out their everyday tasks let it be praying or housework and I hope my pictures reflects this.

“I loved the photography course at UWE Bristol, the staff gave me all the support and help I needed to develop my work but most importantly gave me freedom to explore the ideas that interested me most.”

To find out more about photography courses at UWE Bristol see http://courses.uwe.ac.uk/W640/2012


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