In 2020 we welcomed Kate Abbey to the Cathedral as our new ‘Photographer in Residence’. Throughout the pandemic, Kate has been working with members of the Cathedral congregation and staff to create a series of photographs, and we caught up with her to find out more about her experience at the Cathedral.
Why were you drawn to the Cathedral?
“I’m friends with David (the head verger), so that was the connection. I came to visit when I knew he was a verger, and he was in his cassock and looked so elegant in it, and he was in the Cathedral which I’d never been in before. The soft black material of his cassock against the hard creamy stone was very contrasting so I took some photographs of him and then I entered them into a competition and they got in. It was a “Portrait of Britain”, up all over the UK on electronic posters… so then the Cathedral asked me to get involved.”
What has your residency entailed?
“Initially when I took on the artist in residency my idea was to come and document the comings and goings of the Cathedral- the drop-in centers, the clubs, all the different activities. I was going to come and be a ‘fly on the wall’ but lockdown stopped all that. So I then came just to document what was here when nobody was allowed to come in-the period of time while the Cathedral was empty, which has value in itself because it just captures the months when the Cathedral completely changed.”
“And then I had to change it all because of the lockdown so I asked people permission to go to their houses- initially it was meeting people in gardens, on Zoom, and then eventually in their houses. I was photographing the congregation in their homes and the project then kind of materialised into looking at people with faith in their environments. I would go and see them for an hour and a half, ask them questions about their faith, and then at the end of that after breaking down a lot of the barriers I then took the photographs.”
“They’ve opened up to me after that period of time so there’s a relationship there and an intimacy. And that’s pretty much the idea of it. I’m going to find as many different types of people as I can in terms of backgrounds, heritage, demographics and faith. It will be a collection of my view of faith within Bradford connected to the Cathedral.”
“Speaking to them for an hour creates a connection between us so it’s important that I do that, it’s me asking questions that’s really interesting. So the experience is quite equal to taking the photograph.”
What’s been your favourite part of your involvement with the Cathedral so far?
“When I initially came last October I was extremely busy, I’d just finished back-to-back work in Berlin and Belfast. I came in on the first day and the organ was being played, which always sounds amazing, and I just sat in a chair with my camera and thought I don’t even need to move from this chair! I was even photographing things like the stiletto marks in the wood and the wires coming out of the bottom of doors, the human side of it which really interests me. It was quite quiet, spiritual and calming which I really appreciated. So that was nice, and then everyone is friendly, calm and inviting, and willing to give me their time- everyone who works here has been very supportive. And we’ve been contacting people and everyone’s pretty much said yes and invited me into their homes. It’s enjoyable, and I’m getting a lot out of it.”
“Well initially I was going to do 12 portraits and come to the Cathedral once a month for a year, but then I thought 12 didn’t feel like enough- I didn’t have any women, any young people, there isn’t enough variety there, so I thought let’s go for 20 and then do an exhibition based on that. I’m enjoying it because I just find people really interesting and intriguing so it will probably carry on going. But after that, I have other projects that I’d like to do. With my personal projects, one stops and another one starts!”
“I’m eager for more participation- I’m basically wanting to include as diverse a group as possible of people with faith- any faith. If anybody would like to get in contact with me or are interesting in partaking then please could they get in touch? Different ages, backgrounds, heritages, and religions are all welcome.”
Kate’s work will be exhibited at the Cathedral in June this year. if you would like to get involved, please contact Kate:
Kate’s website: http://www.kateabbey.co.uk