Snap Your Street: Working with York St John’s Photography Students

Whilst the archives service at York Explore has been closed for most of the last year with the national lockdowns, we’ve thankfully still been able to continue with some of our partnership projects. Earlier this year we worked with York St John’s University first year Photography students on a project inspired by the historic images on the new Explore York Images platform. We taught the initial session online, and the aim of the project was to inspire the students to create their own images of York or, where they weren’t able to return to the city due to lockdown, of their own local area. We are delighted to say that a number of the students have been happy to share their inspirations with us. Where we have copyright over the original images we’ve included those. Where we don’t have permission to reproduce, we’ve still included the resulting work from the students.

Firstly, a word from Mark Adams, academic at York St John’s and tutor to the group of students…

‘Students from York St John University were asked to engage with photographic archives as part of their first year practice. In collaboration with archivists at Explore, the students considered photography as a way of exploring the local history of York by researching people, places and events featured in the Explore York images digital database.  

Responses were creative and varied – intelligently tackling subjects such as architecture, social issues such as poverty and ideologies such as feminism, by looking at roles played by the people of the past featured in the archives. The project demonstrated the value of archives and their ability to stimulate creativity and re-evaluate the present.  

Eleanor Chew
I’m a first-year photography student and I practice a lot with the views of rural landscapes and the farming community within that space. I had never really worked with archives or understood what they were. By going into depth about them it helped me understand that having these historical images will help the future generations understand how time has changed places.

My image inspiration was taken from the Red Rose Archive which is about The Ribble Valley in Lancashire. My concept was based around time, and how over the years some things may change but certain things will stay the same. I chose one specific image of my hometown, Clitheroe. The image looks down the main street with a direct look at the Library. I wanted to try and recreate this image as the library itself has not changed from the archive image, but the shops and street layouts have­­.

Eleanor’s picture of Clitheroe

Liberty Hughes
My practice mainly explores different people, but I also love to create double exposures. From the archive session I began to understand the importance of history and I have learnt how objects and places will always have an impact. This inspired me to capture objects that have historical and personal meanings. My concept was focused on the historical landmarks in Rugby, but I gained an interest in double exposure. In the double exposures I have constructed I wanted to present a symbolic meaning to how individuals walk into the future but still carry historical aspects, as it is a part of who we are. My second double exposure shows an opposition of time through a paradox of the past and the present.

One of Liberty’s photographs from the project.

Isabella Graves
My main area of practice is the empirical evidence of Street Photography. I found the archives talk to be very informative and it taught me how technology has allowed us to preserve history for future generations because of the people that work tirelessly researching and updating the archive even during the pandemic. I decided to create my work as close to the original as possible, because I felt this would allow the audience to understand the image better. Doing this has allowed me to create a time-like barrier for the city of York. I wanted to demonstrate the popularity of York through my work as well as focusing on the changes that have been made around the different areas of the city.

Isabella’s modern-day take on the images in the Explore York Images database

Emily Coxon
My current areas of practice are portrait and street photography. I focus on both the world and the people around me. Listening to the talk I enjoyed hearing the passion from Laura about a subject I hadn’t thought much on, as well as learning about the history of York and the contrast between historical and modern times. After the talk I thought about where in York is most enamouring and what came to mind was The Shambles. My chosen edit was the one that I took during lockdown, therefore also reflecting the time of Covid as well as our modern age. I wanted to create an image that, even though it veered from the style of the original, was still inspired by it and could possibly become an archive for future generations to look at that shows the magical atmosphere of the area.

An original image of the Shambles from the 1880s which inspired Emily’s work….
….and her recent study of the Shambles in lockdown.

Sara Floris
I like to consider myself as an artist as paint and photography are both involved in my practice. I particularly love photographing people and social issues. During the talk I was captured by the power of images as proofs and patterns of historical knowledge for the next generations.

I wanted to leave something myself. When I first saw the picture of the woman driving the tram during the First World War, I immediately found my inspiration – women’s role in society is a really important matter.

We can see through that image how this changed since the past century.

I think is also interesting how both photographs are characterised from a time of emergency: the First World War and then the current Covid pandemic.

Even if things have improved there are still exceptions and hopefully, in the the future my photography will be able to testify about their position in 2021.

This photograph of female tram workers in York in the First World War (above) inspired Sara’s work on 21st century female front-line workers in the Covid pandemic (below).

Eloise McQuire
My photographic practice often focuses on both people and places and the relationship between them. From the talk with Laura Yeoman I enjoyed learning about the fascinating history of York and how this history has been recorded and preserved by Explore York Archives. I was particularly interested in the history of the workhouse in York and the effort that had been put in to conserve the archives around this. After the talk I was inspired to investigate the archives about where I live in Harrogate. I found lots of images of Harrogate, mostly from when it was a Victorian spa town. I wanted my work to show the difference between the past and present, particularly with the effects of coronavirus in Harrogate, which I did through overlaying images from the archive with my own work to show a glimpse into these different times.

Eloise worked with layers of images to combine the past and the present.


I’m an aspiring photographer with a passion for the creation of conceptual pieces and the psychological impact it can have upon those who view it. The talk showed how significant archive work can be in relation to revisiting the past, as it gives us a visual insight to the ways of living in the past as well as the advancements in the photographic practice in relation to technology. When creating my work in relation to this archive I had a high interest in the impact of history and wanted to create work which linked modern day York to the past. I achieved this connection by replicating the posing and angles used in the images to create a stronger linkage overall as well as combining them in postproduction, resulting in a more artistic outcome.

Sami’s completed photographs, which involved work in post-production.

Allyson Pulleyn
Historical photography has always fascinated me. I am a first-year student at the University of York St. John and a resident of York since 1983.

Listening to Laura speak really brought home to me the importance of documenting and preserving our historical past through various means and creative endeavours including photography.

Due to Covid-19 my inability to go out and to utilise external services has been limited. Making my own cyanotypes is a self-sufficient process that I take pleasure in fabricating. Exploring my local area allowed me to pay closer attention to my neighbourhood of Fishergate with its rich history. The cyanotype image is taken from Grange Terrace, now incorporated as part of Fulford Road.  The old sandstone sign remains, fixed resolute, into the brickwork despite the passing of time.

One of Allyson’s completed cyanotypes.

I’m Hannah, a young photographer studying 200 miles away from home with a passion for photographing the great outdoors and the way it can make us feel. I’ve learnt from the archive talk with Laura that archives can be viewed as a source of inspiration and creativity for our practices.

The inspiration for my archive project was my home county of Suffolk and the link between person and place. I focused on an icon of the Suffolk agricultural sphere, Roger Clark, who helped preserve the Suffolk Punch breed. I used old and new maps to show the relationship between Roger and Suffolk and chose to use secondary sources within the work as a nod to archival practices. I persevered with this project, but I am now proud of the work I have produced.

Amelia Wright
I am a photographer with an interest in fashion and architecture. I also love to travel.

Looking through the archives of York, I discovered an event that happened in the 1980’s, ‘The Great Fire of York’ (a play on words of the Great Fire of London). This event happened when York Minster (one of the most famous buildings in York) caught fire after a long period of hot weather. This hot weather caused a huge lightning storm that struck the roof of the Minster and set it on fire, setting off alarms around the city and waking up residents. Large squads of firemen arrived to tackle the blaze, but the roof could not be saved, and had to be replaced.

Upon finding out that this happened to York Minster, I wanted to reflect upon how much a building goes through over time. The building has been affected in many ways such as the fire, and weather. When I went to take my image of the Minster it was under renovation and scaffolding was placed over the section I saw in my archive image of the Great Fire. I was intrigued as to what was being repaired and wondered if other parts of the building were being replaced like the roof. The more time goes on the more unstable the building is becoming.

Amelia chose to focus her work on York Minster.

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