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Unmasking the stigma of autism spectrum disorder

We recently attended the postgraduate photography show at LCC to present our RAW Talent Award to three creatives. During the event, we met Benjimen Green and presented him with one of the awards. His photography mainly focuses on people, telling stories that are often overlooked. He believes everyone has a unique story to tell, even if it is not the most prominent one in the room.

With his project, he shared his personal story of being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Benjimen’s portrayal of masks in his images aims to break mainstream autism stereotypes and encourages individuals to embrace their unique identities without fear or shame.

How did you first get into photography?

In my early years, I stumbled upon my dad’s hidden film camera, which I wasn’t supposed to play with. Spending hours absorbed in its dials and buttons, I found it the coolest thing. However, my serious plunge into photography only happened later. In 2018, I purchased a small Fujifilm camera before relocating to Southeast Asia for work. Initially, it was about capturing moments, but after teaching during the day, I began venturing on evening photo walks, sometimes late into the night. This turned into a fever for documentary photography— and a means to unwind and connect with people. Sharing these pictures with friends back home on Instagram led me to pursue self-guided assignments, which became my outlet for storytelling and ignited my passion for photography.  

What type of photography do you like to shoot the most?   

I am particularly drawn to portraiture as it enables me to connect with people uniquely. The dynamic interaction between the subject and the photographer goes beyond merely capturing an image; portraiture involves a fascinating psychological dimension. Additionally, I have a keen interest in fine art documentary photography. The energy of capturing genuine moments and the inherent randomness of everyday life excites me. It presents an opportunity to organize chaos and immortalize moments that will never happen again.  

Congratulations on your project. How did you come up with the idea for it?   

Thank you for your congratulations! The inspiration for this project stemmed from my personal experience of receiving a late diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I felt compelled to address this topic freshly and innovatively, aiming to disrupt the false stereotypes prevalent in mainstream culture. Unfortunately, autistic individuals are frequently stigmatised, pushing them to the margins of society. This societal marginalisation often results in health challenges as individuals attempt to mask their authentic selves, striving to assimilate and conform to societal expectations.  

What did you enjoy the most when working on the project?   

I derived immense satisfaction from employing lateral thinking to address complex issues, especially exploring challenging subjects like autism. Contributing something valuable to the conversation was the most gratifying aspect, aiming to assist people confronting similar struggles by sharing a relatable story. Additionally, the experience of traveling through South America during the project added a unique dimension. The most challenging part involved using myself as the subject for the self-portraits. As a very reserved person, presenting myself in such a public manner was daunting. Nevertheless, it aligned with my objective of inspiring neurodiverse people to be bold and open about their conditions, symbolising the act of public unmasking. 

Can you share your experience of capturing these photos?  

Documenting my journey through South America from a deeply personal perspective was a profound experience with challenges and rewarding moments. Despite facing adversity, such as falling seriously ill with yellow fever in the Amazon and facing a life-threatening situation, I discovered that some of my most compelling photographs emerged during these difficult times. The vulnerability I felt added an unexpected, deeper layer to the project. There were also some amusing moments, like when I visited the pyramids in Mexico. While capturing images of myself holding masks in front of my face, the cultural history of masks in Mexico drew the curiosity of onlookers. A crowd gathered, fascinated by my creative process, and many took pictures of me. Some even approached me who were curious about my work. This created a few interesting conversations.  

How did you develop this approach of using satirical humour in your images?  

The self-portraits created for Masquerade actively confront the misrepresentation of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in mainstream culture. Drawing inspiration from the situationist writer Guy Debord’s “Society of the Spectacle,” where strategies like humour and détournement are discussed for disrupting harmful social constructs, my approach aimed to challenge prevailing norms. Researching existing portrayals of neurodiverse communities highlighted inaccuracies and often disheartening depictions, fostering a negative image. Many narratives portray individuals with ASD as odd or as victims, overlooking their significant contributions in different fields such as science, art, math, and technology. By incorporating humour, I intended to maintain a light tone, engaging audiences while subverting misrepresentations.  

How would you describe your photographic voice?  

My curiosity about people has always been my driving force, leading me to discover my photographic voice. This inquisitiveness centers around uncovering the concealed stories of individuals often overlooked and hidden in less frequented corners of society. Despite being deemed uninteresting by mainstream media, everyone possesses a unique story, valuable even if spoken quietly. I am dedicated to bringing these human experiences to light through photography, shedding insight onto these compelling yet underestimated stories.  

Can you tell us about a unique moment that shaped your style or approach?  

A pivotal moment in shaping my artistic approach occurred while reading Susan Sontag’s work, particularly “Regarding the Pain of Others.” Sontag illuminated the dual nature of photography, akin to speech, capable of both positive and negative impacts. Her perspectives underscored the responsibility photographers bear in shaping narratives. In today’s image-saturated era, it’s crucial to consider our contribution thoughtfully. This realisation has significantly influenced my conscientious approach and given me a greater awareness of the narratives I choose to perpetuate. I approach each idea flexibly in terms of aesthetic style, allowing its nature to dictate the appropriate visual language. I am not rigid about a specific style, as I believe in tailoring the aesthetics to suit the unique demands of each project.  

How did the education at LCC impact and help your journey as a photographer?  

The education at LCC profoundly impacted me because I was surrounded by a network of talented peers and knowledgeable teachers. I gained fresh perspectives that enhanced my approach to photography. This environment nurtured my confidence, allowing me to express my ideas through my work. The support from LCC empowered me to contribute to the broader conversation, helping me better understand where I fit into this dialogue. Additionally, my teachers instilled in me a deep contextual understanding of ethics, which will elevate my practice to a new level in the future.

What are some of the photographers you look up to?  

There are so many, but some that spring to mind are Mary Ellen Mark, Paul Graham, Robert Adams, Alec Soth, and my mentors Christopher Matthews, Edmund Clark, and Max Houghton, who have all carefully guided my development as a photographer over the past few years.

What are your plans for the near future?  

My MA was an intense experience that was hard to process in such a short time. I want to take a moment to breathe and think about everything I have just learned. Photography-wise, I plan to work on something light and fun, where I can enjoy making pictures again. So, I’m heading to Indonesia in the coming months for a holiday and some travel documentary photography.

What do you wish someone told you when you decided on your career? 

Be confident! I wish someone had told me early on that, as a sensitive person with a history of trauma, it’s okay to speak up and share my unique perspective. Permitting myself to be heard was crucial in finding the confidence to contribute to the photography conversation. Not everyone seeks the spotlight, but reserved individuals often have valuable insights. Realising this can be challenging, and building confidence takes time, so be patient with yourself. Although my photography work may not resonate with everyone, there is a group for whom it matters. Navigating a creative career is undeniably challenging, but expressing something meaningful brings unparalleled fulfillment.

See more of Benjimen’s work on his Instagram.


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An intimate portrait of my grandmother

Recently, we had the chance to join the photography postgraduate show at the London College of Communication (LCC). On the hunt to award three creatives with our RAW Talent Award, we were blown away by An Liu, whose project was inspired by her grandma’s life experiences at 87 years old.

We got the chance to talk more with An – like how she approached capturing intimate moments of her elderly family members, developing her dreamy storytelling style, to how LCC helped her grow as a photographer and combine empathy with artistry.

How did you first get into photography? 

Because I majored in computer science during my undergraduate studies, I didn’t have formal and systematic training in photography before coming to LCC. Aside from using a camera to document life during my teenage years, my first proper encounter with photography was during a university student union event. I needed to capture a series of photos showcasing the daily work life of an award-winning teacher. Since then, I have fallen in love with the storytelling aspect of photography. 

What type of photography do you like to shoot the most?  

Before coming to LCC to study photography, I worked as a commercial photographer for four years. However, after my studies at LCC, my interests expanded beyond commercial photography to documentary and fine art photography.

Congratulations on your project. How did you come up with the idea for it?  

My project originated from real stories involving my 87-year-old grandmother, who collected toy gun bullets left by neighborhood children due to loneliness, isolation, boredom, and having nothing to occupy her life. This incident served as the catalyst for the project, driven by my deep understanding and empathy for the situations my elderly relatives faced. 

What did you enjoy the most when working on the project?

I thoroughly enjoyed the extended period spent with my elderly relatives during the shooting process. Spending a month with my grandparent’s great-aunt and delving into their lives increased my understanding and revealed the charming aspects of their personalities that went unnoticed.

You captured elderly relatives and their daily challenges in an almost dreamlike way. How did you develop this approach?

I unconsciously achieved this effect. Living closely with elderly relatives made me realize that their lives, compared to younger people, are inherently closer to a dream. Their lives blur time and memories, lacking young people’s precise boundaries and plans. My initial vision for the project was to create a dreamlike world for my elderly relatives – dressing them up and engaging in childhood games aimed to construct a vibrant, candy-colored dreamscape in contrast to their real lives.

The photos in your project feel very intimate and authentic. How did you work with your subjects?  

This intimacy stems from my genuine and close relationship with my elderly relatives. Before deciding to shoot this project, I would routinely do handicrafts with my grandmother or go to the market to buy groceries. These long-term, genuine relationships maybe unconsciously manifested in the final work. I didn’t inform them of any specific plans or actions related to the shoot. Still, I suggested activities like playing games or dressing up. By being on the same wavelength as my subjects, I earned their trust, allowing them to relax and present their authentic selves. 

How would you describe your photographic voice?  

Viewers often mention sensing warmth and softness in my work, even when exploring heavy topics. This quality comes from my perceptiveness and empathy. My approach makes me reluctant to explore subjects in a very conflicting or confrontational manner. Instead, I prefer to express and heal through a more soothing approach. This subconscious protection of the subjects I photograph contributes to my work’s unique warmth and softness.

Can you describe a unique moment that shaped your style or approach?  

I attribute much of my perspective to my tutor, Kalpesh Lathigra. He emphasized the importance of not just thinking about securing jobs in magazines or with brands but understanding what is in people’s minds and establishing one’s authority. This insight prompted me to explore beyond commercial photography. 

How did the education at LCC impact and help your journey as a photographer?  

LCC provided more assistance than I initially expected. Beyond thorough academic lectures and practical workshops, I appreciated the industry visits that broadened our perspectives. The dedicated and enthusiastic tutors in the program provided valuable feedback on my projects. They offered clear guidance for my photography career. Their vitality and passion for photography and education infected and inspired me, giving me the confidence to pursue photography. 

What role does our software play in your workflow?  

I first encountered Capture One in 2019 during an indoor shoot, and it has become an indispensable tool for me since then. It efficiently provides feedback and rich details during shoots, facilitating the organized post-production of images. The recent introduction of a mobile version for iPad suggests that Capture One will continue to be a crucial part of my workflow in outdoor shoots.

What are some of the photographers you look up to?  

I admire Larry Sultan for his well-balanced approach between staged and documentary photography, creating a magical experience that lingers in the viewer’s mind. Additionally, with its combination of empathy towards subjects and a sense of grand solitude, Chris Killip’s work resonates deeply with me. 

Now that you’ve just graduated, what are your plans for the near future?  

I aim to maintain a balance between commercial and personal work. Commercial projects will allow me to pursue personal endeavors like my final major project. I also intend to share my projects with a broader audience through competitions and open calls for exhibitions. 

What do you wish someone had told you when you decided on your career?  

I wish someone had shared the most challenging aspects of persevering in this profession. Overcoming these challenges would have provided me with the endurance needed for a long-lasting career in photography.

See more of An Liu’s work on her Instagram.


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The paradox project: spirituality meets technology

We attended the postgraduate photography show at LCC to present our RAW Talent Award to three creatives. Goda Kraštinaitytė stood out with her surreal and tech-driven imagery. Journeying from advertising and tech to photography, she showcased a project challenging the connection between spirituality and technology — a paradoxical relationship, according to herself.

We spoke with Goda about her willingness to keep experimenting and drawing inspiration from surrealist sources like Twin Peaks. She also underlines the importance of persevering – never letting go, even if unsatisfied. Consistency, practice, and hard work are the key to breaking through.

How did you first get into photography? 

I got my first point-and-shoot camera when I was 13. Since then, I have experienced all my vacations looking through the camera viewfinder because I just couldn’t put my camera down. After I got my first job at an advertising agency as a Content Creator, photography never left my life professionally. 

What type of photography do you like to shoot the most?   

I like working with objects and creating sets in the studio. Bending reality to create something born in my imagination is very satisfying. Doing that in a studio with music playing in the background is always a meditative experience. 

Congratulations on your project. How did you come up with the idea for it?   

Thank you. I wanted to do something about the current mental health crisis in society. I was also greatly inspired by the show Twin Peaks. This all resulted in a surrealist project that questions our reality and distance from spiritual practices.

What did you enjoy the most when working on the project?   

Having the freedom to work without the boundaries of a marketing campaign, tight deadlines, and experimenting with different techniques was great fun. The most challenging part was finding the right visual language for the project. 

What motivated your surrealist and digital approach?  

While working for a tech company, I was immersed in the world of analysis, optimization, data-driven decisions, and AI-powered tools. I saw many people in the industry also use the same approach in their personal lives. Whether we work in tech or not, we increasingly approach our lives as a technology project. Optimizing our sleep, counting steps, calculating protein intake, tracking insulin levels, and measuring our temperature to record hormone levels are just a few examples. It’s quite paradoxical that I’m using a highly digital process to draw attention to spirituality with my work, but that is actually my point – we can use technological and scientific advances to our advantage but still prioritize and cultivate what’s most important to our human nature – spiritual practices, traditions, values, connection to other humans and self.

How do you see the importance of scientific data vs. creativity in photography? 

It all goes hand in hand. It’s important to be well researched on a topic you’re working with. Scientific data is essential in all areas of our lives, photography included, but there are other equally key elements beyond data that art helps bring attention to. It’s a relationship between the two. 

How would you describe your photographic voice? 

It’s a long process, and I’m still on the journey of exploring it. Currently, my style is trying to convey the feeling of uncanny, out of this world. It’s dreamlike, but in my photography world, this is a good dream that you want to keep dreaming. That’s why I use vibrant, happy colors and lots of light in my images. 

Can you tell us about a unique moment that shaped your style or approach? 

I wish there had been a light bulb moment and an exciting story to tell but to be honest, it’s just experimentation and hard work that led me to where I am now. You try and fail many times – only my MacBook memory storage can tell how many unpublished images I have on it – and sometimes you succeed in creating something you and others like. 

How did the education at LCC impact and help your journey as a photographer? 

Studying at LCC among great talent and tutors well-known in photography has been a privilege. Having someone of a high caliber direct you in the right direction, being exposed to great artists regularly, and studying in London – a city full of galleries and events – was a life-changing experience for me. It really shaped my style and future career path. 

What role does our software play in your workflow? 

Capture One is the industry standard, so I have used it for personal and commercial projects for some years. My work is all about the details, so tethering while I shoot is extremely important. I spend much time on each still-life image, perfecting my composition detail by detail until I get the desired result. Seeing each change live on screen and organizing many pictures as I go is crucial.

What are some of the photographers you look up to? 

I look up to photographers like Aaron Tilley, Jack Davidson, Bobby Doherty, and Aleksandra Kingo. I have some non-photographer idols, such as Sarah Illenberger and David Lynch. 

You’ve just graduated. What are your plans for the near future? 

Keep taking pictures! And hopefully, get paid for it. I have lots of new ideas for future projects and am still working on expanding my portfolio. 

What do you wish someone told you when you decided on your career? 

Read more, go into art galleries more, and explore other photographers’ work because this will shape your style and inspire your projects. Keep going even if you aren’t pleased with your work because everyone has to start somewhere, and only consistency and practice will improve your work.

See more of Goda’s work on her website.


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Storytelling and craft: Ejatu Shaw on her vision and our new features

In 2013, London-based photographer and multidisciplinary artist Ejatu Shaw found her passion for photography during a family trip to her native country, Sierra Leone. She was fascinated by the people she met and the environment she experienced, which inspired her to turn her memories into visual reflections. Over the years, Ejatu has experimented with self-portraiture. As her passion grew, she delved into more deeply-rooted projects, such as “Poly-” and “Teranga,” which allowed her to explore her heritage through her work.

We were thrilled to join Ejatu at her recent photoshoot at Spring Studios in London, where she shared her journey with us and explained how our latest features have affected her workflow. During the shoot and creative process, she was one of the early testers of our new features, including ReTether, AI Masking, Snap to Eye, and plenty more.

“Poly-“, Ejatu Shaw.

Can you tell us about your journey as a photographer and content creator and how you started in this field?

I think my knack for photography kicked in during a trip to my native country of Sierra Leone in 2013, where I spent the entire time taking photographs on my phone—of the beautiful scenery and people we visited from various households. I’d spend the long journeys in the car between each family visit editing the photos on editing apps on my phone. I absolutely loved the process. One of the main reasons I have used photography as my primary medium for expression is the brilliant interactions it allowed me to have with people I knew and strangers. 

Your work explores themes of identity and personal experiences. Please share a bit about your path and how it has influenced your work.

I’ve always been very drawn to African cinema and photography, studying how themes are explored in a sensitive but provocative manner that can generate some practical conversations. For example, in my 2017 project “Poly-”, I explored my Fulani/Islamic heritage, using subjects from my family and a friend to step in for me (before I started taking self-portraits). I used elements of Islamic symbolism and rich colors and textures to delve deep into the realms of my Islamic identity and African heritage, showing a fusion of the two and a departure from both. 

What is your favorite subject or genre of photography to shoot, and why?  

I’m pretty drawn to self-portraiture, as the process can uniquely bring forth your internal, private image. While I use self-portraiture to explore identity and documentation, it can also be seen as a performance, an opportunity to reinvent oneself and explore a new character, bringing to light what may usually be hidden. 

“Teranga”, Ejatu Shaw.

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on that has profoundly impacted you?

I truly enjoy going back home and exploring culture and community under new circumstances. For example, my project “Teranga,” translated from Wolof, which means ‘hospitality,’ documents the sense of welcome I felt when I first visited Senegal, which has a high population of Fulani people. I was able to reconnect with my culture and heritage on this trip thanks to the incredible people I met and my experiences in the country. I wanted to document the individuals that showed me this hospitality and capture the essence of my visit.

At your recent shoot in London, you got to try out our new features. Could you share your experience with us?

What really stuck out to me was the flexibility the new features offered me. The ReTether feature, for example, was so helpful to remove my tether cable and keep shooting freely without affecting my workflow. This meant I was not limited with my angles and left me with so much room for creativity and trying out new things in an environment that is typically high pressured – and then I could plug back in and have all the files load up with the correct naming and all my adjustments applied automatically.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at Ejatu Shaw in action, testing our upcoming features at Spring Studios.
Photographer: Ejatu Shaw, BTS Photographer: Thomas Martin, BTS Video: Nina Veech, Makeup: Billie Mckenzie, Stylist: Efe Igbinadolor, Digi: Holly Louise Taylor, Model: Temi (Named Models), Spark: Brian Salcedo, Gaffer: Nathan Ford.

Collaborating with clients and sharing your work is crucial to any shoot. Have the Live updates impacted your client interactions and feedback process?

The Live update has been so helpful in alleviating pressure on shoots. Giving all collaborators (both on set and remote) access to the live imagery from their own devices gives me much more space to focus on the model and communicate. While still maintaining communication with my team and receiving immediate feedback in an organized way. 

Snap to Eye is designed to speed up reviewing images for sharpness. How has this feature influenced your post-shoot image selection and editing process?

My post-production workflow is so much faster now that I can quickly check each image’s sharpness. I can now dedicate more of this time to the grading and editing process. It’s also very helpful while working on set as my assistant no longer needs to manually click on the eye of each image, which means they have more flexibility to help with other aspects of the shoot. 

In photography, precise and complex masking is crucial but time-consuming. How was working with our new AI Masking?

I absolutely love the AI Masking. It’s very responsive and gives you much more control when adjusting a specific image component. So far, I’ve used it to brighten my subject, bring back details in the sky when shooting outdoors, and change the color of backgrounds or clothing items.

Can you share any upcoming projects you’re excited about and where these new features might play a role?

Thanks to the new features, I have a few editorial and commercial projects coming up where this very flexible workflow will be beneficial. From my smaller shoots and personal projects to the busier commercial shoots where my team may be bigger, I’m confident that all my shoot days will run smoothly. 

Discover what our new features have to offer. Curious to see more? Explore now. 

See more of Ejatu’s work on her Instagram and website.


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