Karen Brickley, Urban Life winner 2021

We chatted with Karen Brickley about her winning image and how she fell in love with photography.
LPOTY London Bridge Dec2021 7
Jan 22

Congratulations Karen on winning the 2021 Urban Life category! Let's go back in time a little, when did you discover photography?

I have had an interest in photography since my teens in the 1970s. I still have the Ilford Sportsman that had been the family camera and was handed on to me, complete with the Dymo labels I made showing which f stop to use in different lighting conditions stuck inside the case.

In my twenties we had an OM2 film camera and used to develop our own black and white photographs at home, which was great fun.

Then life, children and work took over and I mainly used point and shoot cameras for years to record family events, holidays and the like.

In 2013 we booked to go on a cruise along the coast of Norway and on the spur of the moment bought a DSLR camera on the afternoon before we left. It had so many dials and buttons, I had no real idea how to use it and although we got some reasonable photographs I knew I needed to take time to learn more.

Life then got very busy again and this learning was put on the back burner until 2017. I took a couple of day courses locally and then signed up for Emma Davies’ free online course “A Year with my Camera”.

That gave me the knowledge to use my camera properly and with purpose. I fell completely in love with photography.

Since then I have enjoyed using my camera, learning all I can about the art and craft of photography and taking in the work of the many great photographers out there.

Karen Brickley example image 8

Which camera do you use?

The DSLR we bought prior to the cruise is a Canon 550D and I was lucky enough to be given a Canon R for Christmas by my husband a few years ago, I mainly photograph with this now.

Where’s your favourite place to photograph?

I much prefer to photograph outside and am particularly drawn to seas, trees and cities. I am very fortunate to be able to walk to ancient woodland from home and went there often during lockdown.

The sea is a huge pull for me and I like to get there as often as I can, usually during the colder months.

I also love cities and the photographic opportunities arising from all the different styles of architecture, with their patterns, shapes and geometry.

Increasingly I find I am drawn to more intimate landscapes and have been trying different creative techniques to make more abstract images.

Karen Brickley favourite image

What’s your favourite image of yours?

That is a difficult one, like a lot of photographers it is usually one of the more recent ones.

The image I have chosen is from an early morning session on a stormy day down on the south coast. The low light gave everything a moody atmosphere and highlighted the sea spray perfectly.

Although we were out of the last lockdown at that stage the image seemed to represent to me where we were in the pandemic at the end of 2020. We felt that the worst was behind us and we were moving forward to sunnier times, little realising that another wave was ready and waiting to engulf us again. A demonstration of the power of nature.

Tell us about the day you photographed your winning image.

The image was photographed in September on a day out between lockdowns.

As well as being a trip to the sea I particularly wanted to visit the Towner Gallery at Eastbourne, and see the fabulous exterior painted by Lothar Gotz.

We arrived early afternoon and I photographed a few images but the light was extremely harsh. We visited the gallery, enjoyed some excellent tea and cake and came outside again.

Karen Brickley Walk Diagonal

Now the sun was lower and the buildings opposite the gallery were casting some interesting shadows. I tried various positions until I was happy with the way the shadows fell across the road and building. Looking up the sky was a deep blue and almost looked as if it were part of the building exterior.

I tried a couple of images that included passers by, checking that they cleared their shadow and then waited to see who walked into the frame. I got lucky with the man in the image, clad from head to toe in grey, contrasting well with the colourful wall. 1/320 of a second later I had my image and we headed down to the sea for an ice cream.

Where is next on your list of places to visit to photograph?

I have just returned from a week in the outer Hebrides, on Lewis and Harris with a workshop group run by the photographer Margaret Soraya. I loved the bleak, wild landscape and beautiful beaches on the islands and would definitely like to go back.

In the shorter term I am working on a series of close up images of rusty metal sea defences, the colours, patterns and textures really excite me and so I will be back by the sea again very soon.

Karen Brickley example image 3

Congratulations to Karen for her winning image in Urban Life 2021. Karen was awarded £1,000. Her photograph is included the LPOTY Collection 14 book, as well as on display in the LPOTY exhibition around the UK in partnership with Network Rail.

Latest news