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#CEawards17: Alannah Cooper winners interview

Alannah won 2017's Creative Edinburgh Student Award. Here, she talks us through her highlights of the year and plans for the future. #CEawards17 photography by Clark James.

- What were your highlights of 2017?

It’s February, so pretty chilly. I’m photographing five girls at the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle back home in Orkney. Each girl is wearing white long johns, swimming shoes and pastel coloured tops and I’m directing them to form constellations. Between shots, the girls are wrapped up in huge brown fleecy blankets and the thermos flask is being passed around. An inquisitive tourist asks if I’m shooting a period drama because the ‘brown robes’ are very authentic.

One evening, I’m struggling because I don’t like the clothes I’ve chosen for the shoot I’m about to do the next morning. My mum opens her wardrobe and throws the entire contents on the bed, we go into the shed and find my dad’s boiler suit and I put it together with a ruffled shirt. By this point my mum is wearing so many clothes she looks like she’s preparing for hibernation. It became one of my favourite shoots.

Sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by poker chips, thimbles and collectible teaspoons while trying to hot glue marbles to a shiny green jacket. Trying to help a model get dressed in a copper mini dress to climb over a fence stile to get down from the cliff to the beach. Doing a shoot on the ferry and taking so many trips that we got to a point where we couldn’t remember which island we were on.

Every photo shoot of 2017 was a highlight. Every weird late-night idea that grew arms and legs by morning was a highlight. Having photos taken in my granny’s greenhouse and Johnny Meil’s beach on display in the Palace of Westminster. Winning the Fashion Photography Award at Graduate Fashion Week and having it highlighted in the bulletin for the Scottish Parliament as inspiration for others living and growing up in rural places. The year has been jam-packed with brilliant moments and unexpected achievements, I have been so lucky and I’m so fortunate for all of the opportunities that have arisen this year.

- What are your plans for 2018?

2017 still isn’t quite over yet. I’m having an exhibition in Hill Street Design House with one of my very best friends, Mairi Laird, from the 9th – 19th December. It’s called ‘I’d Hate to be an Indoor Plant’ and instead of looking towards growing up in the islands, I’m considering the freedom and claustrophobia of city life.

Then after a trip home to Orkney, I will be moving to the opposite end of the country to London to study a Masters in Fashion Communication and Promotion at Central Saint Martins in January.

- You won Creative Edinburgh’s Student Award 2017. What does winning the award mean for you?

Having lived in Edinburgh for the last two and a half years, I’ve really enjoyed working in and being part of the creative community. I have found Creative Edinburgh really supportive of everything and great for myself, as somebody who isn’t originally from Edinburgh, to be able to make connections with people in the city. To win the Student Award is a really big achievement because it represents all these people who have helped me to develop my work, along with my friends and the tutors I had at Heriot Watt University.

- Do you have any plans for developing your award winning idea in the future?

I am really passionate about promoting rural creatives and finding new ways to connect them with the wider world. I think that the way the internet works right now there’s definitely scope for people to be able to work from anywhere. Right now, my main aims are supporting independent companies, highlighting the work of people living rurally wherever possible, trying to reduce the environmental impact of my work in a wasteful industry and encouraging creation and consumption to become more conscious.

Follow Alannah's progress via her website and Instagram.

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