MA Photography graduate story: Exploring a family's history

Mon 29 Jan 2024

Explore the profound journey of photography graduate Mary Musgrove, as she delves into her family's history in Ireland through her images.

Mary Musgrove is a graduate of the Falmouth Flexible MA Photography who's recently produced a book and exhibition (running from 26 January to 5 February 2024) based around her Final Major Project for the course. Mary's images give an account of her family's history in Ireland's mother and baby homes.

We spoke to Mary about her work, along with how studying a master's degree is helping her achieve her ambitions within the photography field.

Read on to find out more:

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I’ve been a portrait and event photographer for over 25 years but when the Covid-19 lockdowns came, I was left with no work or income. I had thought about doing different, more purposeful photography over the years since my BA (Hons) degree, but didn’t know what or where to go with it.

It was during the Falmouth Flexible MA Photography that I found a way of interpreting emotions with therapeutic photography and produce personal work to help me and others in similar situations.

I've produced work that has embodied feminism and human rights on subjects such as The Menopause, Generational Trauma and Women's Football.mary profile.©HossPhotography 

Congratulations on your book and exhibition! Can you tell us more about these?

I produced the book ‘Mary, Mary’ after I completed the e-book version for my Final Major Project on the MA Photography but I had said at the time I would get a book designer and produce a printed version to coincide with an exhibition once I found the right place.

I had been liaising with The London Irish Centre throughout the project and when they offered me January this year, I knew I had the deadline in my mind’s eye to work towards. The Irish Centre is a hub for Irish diaspora and where there is a Survivor Group.

This was important for the work because of subject matter that recalls the horrors of the systemic abuse carried out in institutions run by nuns and priests.

It looks at the country’s landscapes and illustrates ‘what remains after trauma’ as a semi-autobiographical account of what I believe is the response to the ill-treatment of the Irish people.

You recently finished the online MA Photography with Falmouth Flexible. Why did you choose to study photography online?

Firstly I loved the sound of the course, with various lecturers from all walks and genres. It's totally opened up different perspectives and styles of contemporary photography for me. Plus, I started it in lockdown, so there was no choice but to work from home.

I knew that if I could study remotely then I could fit it in around work, children and life in general once lockdown was over. The course is pretty flexible as it ‘says on the tin’, and the tutors and student advisors were very helpful if there was a problem with deadlines or technical difficulties.

A Winter's Hope ©marymusgrovephotography

Image: 'A Winter's Hope', © Mary Musgrove Photography

How has the course helped you achieve your goals?

I don’t think I would have produced work to the standard I have done without the guidance and knowledge from my tutors. I had the ideas but needed structure, critics and guidance along the way, as it had been a long time since I’d done any form of studying.

What’s next for you?

Presently, I’m looking at other venues for the exhibition, and looking into other projects on the same subject. I’m also working on therapeutic and mindful photography workshops.

Broken and Locked Up ©marymusgrovephotography

Image: 'Broken and Locked Up', © Mary Musgrove Photography

What would you say to someone else thinking about studying the online MA Photography with Falmouth Flexible?

For me I researched a lot of MA courses and thought about time, money and resources for a while, but it was the right time for me. I’d say if you’re already looking into it then you should just do it - it’ll give you goals and deadlines if you need that. It was brilliant for me. 

Find out more about Mary's book and exhibition at the London Irish Centre, running from 26 January to 5 February 2024.

Profile photo: © Hoss Photography

Featured image: © Mary Musgrove Photography


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