Photography graduate achieves her dream of working with the RPS


A photographic artist and alumna of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has realised her dream of hosting an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) gallery, after years of entering their amateur competitions.

Mandy Barker, who graduated with a Photography MA in 2011, has been invited to debut her ‘Altered Ocean’ exhibition at the RPS House in Bristol from 4 April - making it the first solo show at the new gallery since it opened earlier this year.

 Mandy Barker

Mandy has dedicated her career to highlighting the critical issue of marine plastic pollution, working with scientists all over the world to research the harmful effect it is having.

“I am really honoured to be exhibiting as the first solo show at the new RPS headquarters,” she said. “When I was younger I used to enter RPS competitions to win their ‘photo of the week’ - it was really my first connection to photography, so I feel like I’ve come full circle from amateur to professional.”

Altered Ocean documents Mandy’s professional journey over the last 10 years, featuring large-scale prints and scientific samples, alongside supporting sketchbooks and study notes that connect the relationship between her practical work and the research that informs it.

Photograph © Mandy Barker 3

Using shots of plastic debris and recovered objects displayed in thought-provoking ways, her images are intended to stimulate an emotional response through initial aesthetic attraction, combined with a powerful message of awareness about the devastating impact plastic pollution has.

“I aim to create images that are very beautiful to look at in order to draw people in,” she said. “Then when they read the captions, which explain about the serious harm that plastic is causing to our planet, they are often shocked and it gets them to think about their own plastic use.

“I am really excited to see all of my work together in one place. I can’t believe the journey I have been on since I first started. I never could have imagined my work would gain international recognition.”

Photograph © Mandy Barker 4

In 2017 Mandy had her first book published, titled Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals, which features 59 colour photographs and illustrations based on scientific research that shows plankton are ingesting microplastic particles, mistaking them for food.

The images in the book have since been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet award, a globally recognised photography award for sustainability.

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Dr Michael Pritchard, director of education and public affairs for the RPS, said: “The Royal Photographic Society is pleased to be presenting the first showing of Altered Ocean from Mandy Barker.  

“Altered Ocean uses the power of photography to draw attention to the problem of plastic which is polluting the world’s seas and ecosystems, and ultimately impacting humankind through the food chain. Mandy also draws attention to the work of scientists active in the field in a way that is visually powerful, but never losing sight of the wider issues.”

The Altered Ocean exhibition will run from 4 April to 23 June at RPS House in Bristol. 

Posted on Monday 1st April 2019

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