Craig Easton has had an impressive career as a documentary photographer. 

Deeply rooted in the tradition of documentary photography, Craig shoots long term projects that explore the themes of social policy, identity and a sense of place. 

In April 2021, Craig was awarded the World Photography Organisation’s Photographer of the Year Award at the prestigious SONY World Photography Awards 2021 for his series Bank Top

However, before he was an award-winning photographer, Craig studied physics right here at the University of Salford. 

His university years, during the 1980s, inspired Craig to follow his passion, which was  discovered as a member of the University’s camera society. 

We spoke to Craig about his time at Salford and how it helped inspire his work. 

“I was at Salford in the mid to late 80s and it was a time of great political turmoil, right in the middle of the Thatcher years with the poll tax and the miners’ strike and it felt like we were living in a very polarised political community right across the country.

“I grew up in that time and I became interested in politics and social issues in particular as a result.”

Although Craig was studying Physics, his involvement with extra-curricular activities at the University helped guide him towards starting his journey as a photographer.

“I started photographing when I was at university, I joined the camera society, there wasn’t a photography course then, of course it was a very different time. 

“I knew I wanted to get involved with politics and telling stories and the first pictures I made weren’t pretty sunsets, but were student demonstrations and the like.

“I went to university to study physics and came out wanting to be a photographer.”

When asked about his advice for photography students, Craig shared that students just have to believe in their dream and be passionate about their art. 

“It’s funny, I feel like everyone says photography is an incredibly hard industry to get into, but I think that’s true for any industry – especially for graduates at the moment. 

“But in the end if you do something you’re passionate about and something that you really love, you’re just not going to stop. Certainly in photography it is that commitment that is required and it is that dedication that pays off in the end. I was obsessed. Still am.

“It’s difficult to offer advice to anyone because you have to follow your own path. For me, I just couldn’t do anything else – didn’t want to do anything else – and nothing was going to stop me from being a photographer. I think it’s really about believing your dreams and saying to yourself I’m going to do this, no matter what.”

After graduating from Salford, Craig went on to do a postgraduate degree in photojournalism to nurture his passion for photography. He also worked for the Independent newspaper for a time. 

“I was lucky that I worked for one of the nationals and as a young photographer it was fantastic.”

Continuing with his passion for story-telling and exploring issues around social policy, Craig created various series of works that explored a variety of issues. 

His projects ranged from poverty and economic hardship in Thatcher’s Children to how social backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, education and location influence what young people think they can achieve in life in his multiple award-winning series Sixteen.

Craig’s Sony World Photography Award winning series Bank Top was created as a way to challenge what he describes as the ‘simplistic misrepresentation’ of a community in Blackburn. 

“It was done in response to two BBC Panorama programmes in which they questioned whether Blackburn was the most segregated town in Britain.

“And of course that’s not the Blackburn that we know and so I wanted to look at that.

“I was invited to be part of a project run by Blackburn Museum called ‘Kick down the Barriers’ that was set up to challenge these divisive narratives.

“And I suppose, in a lot of my work, certainly in the north, it’s about us telling our own stories and challenging narratives that are placed on us from afar.”

Bank Top, which focuses on the tight-knit neighbourhood of the same name in Blackburn, was created in collaboration with writer and academic Abdul ‘Aziz’ Hafiz. 

One of the photos from Craig Easton’s Bank Top series. Image retrieved from Salford Uni News

Over the course of a year, Craig and Aziz worked closely with local residents to explore their stories and experiences through a series of black and white portraits and accompanying texts.

You can view the series here

Through Craig’s work, he expresses the need for the arts in society and how different mediums can be used to hold power to account. 

“If this lockdown has told us anything it’s how important the arts are. How when everything else is taken away, it is books and film and music and photography that we look to for our understanding of the world.

“The arts are our culture and certainly in my field in documentary arts it really is about holding power to account and challenging the dominant discourse that can be so dangerous and divisive.”

You can view more of Craig’s inspiring work on his website

Featured image – Craig Easton. Image provided by Craig Easton