After two years of cancellations Bristol Pride is back! Throughout June and July the city has been hosting a range of events from drag shows, talks and socials, all leading to the grand finale that is Pride Day on 9 July.
University of Bristol alum Nicky Ebbage is going to be taking photos for us on Pride Day to capture the fun and celebration.
So let’s find out more about them!
1. What did you study at Bristol?
I studied history, which isn’t at all related to what I do in life now – other than a unit in my second year about inter-war photography and film! I absolutely wouldn’t change it though; it taught me a lot, and really impacted how I think and conceptualise the world.
2. How did you decide to become a photographer, and why is it important to be recognised as a queer photographer?
I became a photographer after deciding I needed a break from academia. Initially I was planning to go straight from degree to MA to PhD, but partway through my MA I realised it wasn’t really right for me. I bounced between jobs for a while, before remembering how much I’d enjoyed my part-time job – assistant to a photographer – when I was a teenager, and decided to go for it!
I’m very open about being a queer/trans photographer for a couple of reasons. First of all, it tends to set a lot of my clients at ease; most of the people who book me are LGBTQ people specifically looking for an LGBTQ photographer. The wedding industry in particular can be very heteronormative and gendered, so I think a lot of queer couples really want to work with someone who isn’t going to make assumptions!
And secondly it’s important because the photography industry isn’t hugely diverse. In the UK, most photographers – both professional and hobbyist – tend to be from the same demographic. I think if people can see me existing as a queer/trans, working class photographer it will help change ideas of what a photographer looks like and who can be one. Hopefully it might even encourage other people like me to get involved with photography!
3. How can the University better help LGBTQ+ students?
I think improving access to health services is a big one. It’s been six years since I was a student, so I’m not sure what’s changed in that time, but I definitely remember that counselling services seemed stretched. Ensuring better access to mental health services is important for all students, but I think it’s especially important for those who are LGBTQ. Physical health services are important too – I remember really wanting to physically transition when I was a student, but not really knowing how to go about it. Having a point of contact for that kind of thing would have been extremely helpful.
Ensuring that all spaces in the university are a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students is also a very important, and something that can be done on this front is to give tutors and staff appropriate training. I remember that there were some very weird assumptions made in my seminars whenever queer topics were covered, and I think ensuring tutors are able to challenge or correct misinformation is important.
4. What’s your first memory of Pride and how will you be marking Pride this year?
The first Pride I ever attended was Bristol Pride in 2013 – I’d been out as asexual for about a year, but I hadn’t come out to anyone as trans yet. It was a pretty different experience to what Pride is today – it felt smaller, and there wasn’t the huge variety of different flags that you tend to see now. I mostly remember getting an ace pride flag painted on my cheek, and then spending the rest of the day explaining what it was to random people! One guy came and hugged me though – he was asexual too, and had never met another asexual in real life before. That was a pretty nice moment.
This year I’m celebrating with a photography exhibition! I run a transgender visibility project called Bristol Trans Portraits, and some of the images are up at St George’s Bristol until July 10th. Pop in for a visit if you’re near Park Street – it’s free entry, and we also have a panel discussion coming up on July 6th, which will be about the theme of visibility. You can find all the details on the project website: www.bristoltransportraits.co.uk
Other than that, I’ll probably end up working my way through a lot of LGBTQ films!
5. What are your favourite things to photograph?
That’s a really difficult question to answer! I photograph a real mix of things – from weddings to landscapes to gigs – and I like the different aspects of all of them. I mostly love photographing anything that gives me the opportunity to be creative; minimalist images really draw me in, so any time I have the opportunity to work negative space into my images tends to make me pretty happy!
That being said, there’s also something pretty special about doing one-on-one portrait sessions. They give you a lot of time to really connect with someone, and I’ve actually ended up making some good friends that way!