Hasselblad Heroine 2023
Ceridwen Hughes, a passionate photographer hailing from North Wales, has a heartfelt mission with her photography — to shine a spotlight onto the vibrant personalities of people affected by rare diseases, disabilities and social issues, celebrating their diversity and individuality.
Through her organisation, ‘Same but Different’, founded in 2015, Ceridwen channels her fervor for photography into impactful social change – creating work that connects with some of the most heartfelt human emotions.
DEFINING PHOTOGRAPHY AS AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Ceridwen's distinctive style doesn't hinge on technical prowess; rather, it stems from her ability to evoke emotions and establish a personal connection between viewer and subject. Her portraits aim to unveil the strength and vulnerability intertwined within individuals, fostering empathy and relatability.
“I hope that through the images I break down barriers whilst also bringing awareness, particularly through the scene-based images I create.”
Her introduction into photography came later in her marketing career, and she made the full-time switch in 2014, aiming to show a more positive perspective of disability.
“I have a son with a rare disease and when he was young, I found it so frustrating that people would see his visible difference, rather than the amazing and funny child that he is. I set out to combine my marketing knowledge and passion for photography and created my first photographic project which highlighted the children behind their conditions and focused on them rather than their disability.”
She draws inspiration from diverse sources—admiring the scene-crafting finesse of Eugenio Recuenco and finding resonance in the subtle mastery of light in Rembrandt's portraits. Her comfort lies in manipulating low light in studio settings to sculpt images that resonate emotionally.
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PATIENCE IN PHOTOGRAPHY: ACHIEVING EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Ceridwen’s advice for aspiring photographers echoes the importance of meticulous planning and patience. She emphasizes the art of storytelling within a frame, where even the minutest of details hold significance. For her, achieving that emotional connection requires building rapport with the subject and being prepared to capture the unexpected.
“When creating scene-based images, I spend a considerable amount of planning and thinking about the smallest of details that keeps the interest of the viewer. Often someone might not notice the details, but I hope they will want to ask questions and be curious.
“I would suggest taking your time and not rushing to get photographing. There have been some projects where it has been many months from getting the initial idea, to actually taking a photograph, because I need to find the right person or location.
“With the portraits I want the sitter to feel at ease and it is then that they are most likely to give you that emotional connection you are after. I talk to them and depending on the emotion I want to highlight I will let that guide the subject matter. Always be prepared to take that photo, even if it means talking from behind the lens.”
Reflecting on a challenging shoot set in a hospital, she stresses the need for adaptability and creative thinking. When confronted with an unforeseen change of scene, her ability to pivot and creatively reimagine the setup ultimately resulted in a successful and unexpected outcome.
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BRINGING LIFE AND DEATH TO THE LENS: 'WHAT MATTERS MOST?'
Ceridwen's recent project, 'What Matters Most?', delves into the depths of life and death, inspired by personal experiences. Using a Hasselblad camera, she captured the raw emotions surrounding end-of-life care, immortalizing poignant moments and stories.
“The project was inspired by my own experience of end-of-life care, when my mother died in 2020. The initial main group image was inspired by Rembrandt’s painting The Anatomy Lesson of Professor Nicolases Tulp.
“The central participant is Sue who had been given a terminal diagnosis. Those surrounding her bed are clinicians, hospice staff and a carer. I chose this approach as I wanted to ignite people’s curiosity to want to find out more and to be able to delve into the individual’s stories further through the main exhibition.”
The Hasselblad's precision and reliability became pivotal in capturing the essence of fleeting moments, as seen in the project's touching narratives.
BE TRUE TO YOUR VISION: CERIDWEN'S PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
To fellow female photographers, Ceridwen extends the advice of seeking guidance from others, remaining true to their individual styles, and steering clear of imitating trends for the sake of conformity. Her success, she emphasizes, emerged from genuine connections and a commitment to her personal vision.
“Never be afraid to reach out to other photographers and ask advice, no matter how simple you might think the question is. The only reason I am doing a job that I absolutely love is because of the kindness of others.
“In terms of style, be true to yourself and create the images that you love rather than trying to fit into a style you feel you should follow.”
Looking ahead, Ceridwen's focus remains on expanding 'What Matters Most?', collaborating with organizations like Hospice UK and Marie Curie. She anticipates unveiling this compelling exhibition at the Welsh Parliament, aiming to shed light on the significance of personalized medicine in her future endeavors.