The second instalment of our The Graduates 2012 feature is dedicated to Signe Emma, a graphic design graduate from Kingston University with a portfolio surprisingly dominated by photography. Describing Signe’s work is a problematic affair as it’s thick with variety, thematically spanning everything from the lack of flavour in airplane food to the rippling torsos of female bodybuilders, partying piñatas to the mental transition between life and death.
In spite of this variety Signe’s portfolio is incredibly coherent, due to both the professional execution and high quality of ideas behind each piece. Central to her practise is a thorough research methodology that aids the development of her ideas into truly engaging concepts, a talent that can doubtless be attributed to a self-confessed bibliophilia. Her Airline Food project for example starts with the premise that atmospheric pressure and other environmental nuances impair the flavour of airplane meals, the resulting work depicts the salt content of these meals at a microscopic level, visually recalling coastal landscapes as viewed form the air. Smart!
Signe’s life story goes thus: "Three years ago I stopped hoarding books and moved to London from my hometown of Copenhagen to study graphic design and photography at Kingston University. I am almost always inclined to encrypt my work with some sort of narrative or a comment on social issues.
When I’m not immersed in Photoshop and glue you can find me at exhibitions, eating (I love food) or having a glass of wine. I’m also still hoarding books."
Why or who or what made you go to art school?
Before moving to London, I worked for some years in various jobs but found myself wanting more for my future and career. I thought I would come back to something I always had an interest in – photography. In secondary school I had two work placements with photographers and always dreamt of working with photography somehow. Later on, I completed an 18-month photography course in Copenhagen, which I found valuable but for some reason I never really found a way of using photography in the way that made sense to me. So I decided to study graphic design. Suddenly it all came together – photography could become a tool to assist my communication and help deliver a message.
What’s the best mistake you made when you were studying?
I have made many mistakes over time but recently, I ordered 5,000 small architectural models of people from China on eBay because I wanted to make a project about air pollution in London. They arrived too late so I was forced into developing and finishing my Airline Food project for our degree show. I had made test shots through a normal microscope months before without any luck but with help from a very kind technician in the science department I managed to get a result I was pleased with. I guess things happens for a reason sometimes.
If you could show your work to one person, who would you choose, what would you show them?
I think I would show Airline Food to my physics teacher at my high school. Physics used to be one of my favourite subjects and my teacher was amazing and always encouraged me to experiment in order to learn. Another project I would choose is the series of photographs I took of my grandmother over the last months of her life. I’m sure that she would have appreciated how much it meant to us as a family that she had a dignified ending to her life at home in her own flat and that I miss her a lot.
Can you give us one prediction about your work for the next year?
I hope that I’m not able to predict any of my work for next year. I would love to continue to try new things and explore different creative routes. I hope I will meet interesting new people with different backgrounds and skills to collaborate on projects with. I would love to be surprised and to learn a lot – I’m sure I will!
What’s the best thing you saw in the last three years?
I saw an interesting exhibition What’s Next? at the FOAM photography museum in Amsterdam last year where Erik Kessels curated a part of the exhibition. His Photography in Abundance showed how the digitalisation of photography and the rise of social media sites such as Flickr and Facebook make everyone become photographers, allowing them to distribute and share their photos with the public. Kessels printed all the images that were posted on Flickr during a 24-hour period. The end result was an overwhelming presentation of a million prints, which almost formed a landscape in the exhibition space. I found it very interesting to see all the photos in a physical form in order to understand the huge amount of digital files online.
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