“We are all connected”: Sarah Louise Stedeford on her personal approach to photography
For her portraits, the London-based photographer seeks out the intimate and unexpected connections made between people.
- Ayla Angelos
- 12 May 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Sarah Louise Stedeford followed a fairly traditional path to photography. After school, she decided to pursue the medium and went to study an FDA at Westminster. “We were only allowed to shoot on film and I didn’t touch a digital camera until after I graduated, and then I worked in e-commerce for a year,” she tells It’s Nice That. Then, some form of rebellion prevailed and Sarah found herself working predominantly with the digital process – a method she practiced over the course of a few years while she was assisting. “But later on, I found myself back in the darkroom re-discovering how I fell in love with photography, and I learned that the slow pace and the process is essential to my work.”
This adoration with the process is imperative to the work that she produces today. Seeking to “explore and document”, Sarah strives to capture the unexpected and playful moments found in everyday life. In particular, it's groups of people forming connections that is the cynosure of her work. “My work aims to document both our similarities and our differences while ultimately showing that we are all connected,” she explains on the topic of her work. “Subjects are brought together through a shared hobby, interest or passion for change in the world.”
In the case of finding these connections, Sarah’s references and inspiration is varied and comes from all corners. When planning a shoot, she will collate all her sources into one place so that she can access and describe the narrative, as well as build on the concept of the story. This, plus working with a team and collecting various ideas is her ideal methodology. “I think it can be really interesting working in collaboration,” she adds, stating how she enjoys the process when everyone adds in their own perspective. “In a way, by doing this you can create something that feels quite new and there’s always more depth to the series.”
A recent project saw the London-based photographer traverse to the Antiques Roadshow in Wales for a larger series. Referring to a memorable image of the back of a man’s head, she describes the rat's tail that he wears and his tall stride as two elements that add an interesting perspective, alongside the graphic collar that runs throughout the image. “I love the energy that this has,” she says, “and it also feels very British in a way – a small detail that shows something about who you are, that’s not too in-your-face but still full of personality.” Further explanations reveal that his partner plaits his hair for him everyday; they’re both in their 60s and live this almost completely off-grid lifestyle in Somerset together.
For Sarah, she observes how photography is constantly changing, particularly now, as it continues to rapidly evolve through our generation. “So in a way we need to always figure out what the role of the photographer or of photography is,” she explains, “possibly now more than ever.” By using her camera to capture the people that intrigue her in these small connected moments of life, she tells us that, ultimately, photography is a tool that we can use in many different ways: “to express our creativity, communicate our ideas, or our ideals, and to document our surroundings.” She puts this notion into practice within her work, and looks to constantly question her practice and to evolve her style with the medium. “But for me, photography has been in my life for such a long time that it would feel really unnatural to not think about photography, or to not take photographs. It’s become a part of how I see and interact with the world.”
Of course, considering the current climate, future projects have been consequently placed on hold. Fortunately for Sarah, she has set up her own small lockdown darkroom in her home, in order to spend time going back through her archive and printing photographs that she might have missed before. Additionally, she has organised a small print sale with a handful of other photographers “to help the NHS staff working in intensive care at Kingston hospital, where my friend's mum is a senior nurse,” she says. “We will sell some of the prints that we have at home to raise money for the team of nurses at Kingston ICU as a small thank you for all their hard work during this time.”