The photo is of Nadezhda. She was the dinner lady at our school in Yaroslavl. The dinners were horrible – really, really bad but she was lovely and she worked behind the counter, so we saw her every day because we had the school lunches.
Our language school was based in a big Russian school. We had one room in this huge building. We went in for our lunch every day. She was there and she would dish us out our soups and breads. I always had my camera and took pictures around the school and took quite a lot of her in the kitchen. She never minded. One day she was wearing this bright red outfit, she normally wore white or blue so I thought this would make a nice picture and I asked if I could do a portrait. Also very luckily, it was one of the few days the sun was shining. (Yaroslavl was always so grey and rainy). The sun was shining and it made nice shadows on the wall in the dining room. I asked Nadezda if she would mind standing in the light. It was great and she loved it when she saw the picture on the back of the camera.
This photo was taken in one of the churches in the Kremlin. They do tourist tours around the Kremlin. My parents had come to visit and we were walking around the churches.
This lady was following us, going round each church as well. She was going into each church, saying a prayer in the doorway. My parents noticed that she’d been with us all morning. As I was leaving one church, I saw her standing in the doorway and took the picture. Luckily it came out quite nicely. The light is nice in those churches. It’s all dark and the light coming through the windows looks nice. This photo was shot on black and white film which is why it has a black and white grainy quality.
I’d been to Easter Island for 5 days. I was there by myself. I went to this area on the second day, where they have all the “moai” – the statues. They are in front of the ocean, but not facing it. We were driving. I had a guide to show me round. Some of the area was on fire. There’d been a forest fire, so we pulled over. I could see the sign which said Ahu Tongariki and you could see the moai in the background as we were approaching.
Then I saw this rooster. I thought, “That’s quite cool” and got the camera. When I was looking back at my photos from that trip, I thought, “I like that one cos it’s a little bit different”. It wasn’t just a photo of the moai, it wasn’t just a photo of Easter Island. For me it captured the fact that while the island is an amazing place - it’s so beautiful, I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world like it - you can forget sometimes that there are normal people living there and that that for them, this is just life. Seeing the rooster reminded me that this is a normal place for the people who live there.
I took the photograph from my balcony in Madrid. I think San Isidro is the patron saint of Madrid, so they have a massive festival. I lived opposite the San Isidro church.
They were doing a big procession. I took the photo at the beginning. There were just a few mainly elderly people standing being very reserved and well behaved and there was this police officer standing there trying to control them which I thought was quite funny because they didn’t need controlling at all.
I was in Heidelberg, in my last stage of my Year Abroad on study placement there. It was Easter Sunday. I was walking along a side street in Heidelberg, past a fountain behind a gate that I’d always walked past. It seemed like a devotional place, like a chapel, with a cross and a fountain covered by a gate.
Suddenly on Easter Sunday it had completely transformed and the whole of the inside of the fountain was decorated with little plants – primroses, daffodils and colourful Spring flowers. And the whole gate was covered with Easter eggs. There is a German tradition of hollowing out eggs at Easter and painting them and they’d hung them on the outside of the gate. It was pretty and a complete transformation. I decided to take a photo because it was different, the gate was rusty and suddenly it had been given all this colour. It was a nice insight too into the way they celebrate Easter there and the efforts they go to. In Southern Germany they go as far with the decorations as they do at Christmas.
I was taking photos around Christmas time. There were the Christmas markets on and so I was taking those kind of pictures.
Then we went down into the subway and I took one of the central station. When I went downstairs I thought, “well, since I’ve got this fish eye lens on I might as well wait for a train to come”. I knew how I was going to process it before I took it. I knew precisely how I wanted it to come out with the Stadtmitt signs and the train coming in a little bit blurred. And I knew that I would mute most of the colours apart from the yellow of the train. Because I was thinking “what’s pleasing?”, “what captures Berlin in one picture?”.
In 2008, the School of Modern Languages set up the Year Abroad Photography Competition for its third-year students. Students are invited to submit entries under three categories: 'People', 'Places' and 'The Unexpected'.
The aim of the competition is twofold: