Meet Gabriel Van Ingen, BA (Hons) Photography Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader
Gabriel Van Ingen has been appointed as our new Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for BA (Hons) Photography. A highly experienced educator in the creative arts, Gabriel is an Ambassador for Docking Station, a Netherlands-based photography platform, and was previously Editor at LUMEN magazine of visual art and technology and Director of Nottingham-based artist studios and exhibition space, Secta Studios. His work has been exhibited across the UK and Spain.
We sat down with Gabriel to find out more about how his travels around the world led to a love of landscape photography, the changing and experimental focus of his personal work, and why, more than anything, he wants to see students succeed.
Gabriel Van Ingen
Did you realise when you were travelling that photography could become a career?
“No, it hadn’t occurred to me that photography was something that I could pursue professionally, until somebody suggested it in conversation and I realised that this might be the path for me. I returned to education, completing a Foundation qualification at North Oxfordshire School of Arts and photography has been a big part of my life ever since.”
“All these years later, I’m still studying photography and still asking myself questions about my creative practice - why am I taking photos, what is the purpose of my work, what does it serve? That’s the focus of my PhD, to more closely examine my practice, what the meaning of photography is and what it communicates to an audience. That opportunity to return to education transformed my life, which is one of the reasons that I’m so passionate about the power of education.”
'Deconstructed Landscape' by Gabriel Van Ingen
Has the art of photography changed much since you studied at university?
“Definitely photography is an ongoing developmental process. When I started there was no digital photography, I grew up in an analogue age, working in the darkroom. During my Foundation I was fortunate that one of my tutors was very fine art-based and the other very technically-minded, teaching us about the craft and potential of the medium, so there was one tutor teaching us how to mix our own chemicals for developing photos while the other encouraged us to burn our photos and display them in provocative places. That mix of approaches and skills really gave me a good grounding to succeed.”
“The focus of my personal practice now is landscape photography, linked to my relationship with and understanding of the landscape. Although I have an analogue background, I try to approach each situation with whatever tool fits best, so I’m comfortable shooting digitally, I’ve experimented with 3D modelling, projections and installation work, and I’m currently working with a LiDAR camera. Specifically, I’m currently interested in the sea and the toxic sublime of the British coastline. I want to revisit and reexamine our relationship with the sea as temporal space, how it’s viewed and understood, how we conceptualise and relate to it and how our human perception of the sea diverges from the way other creatures might perceive it.”
'Cairne View' by Gabriel Van Ingen
What is it that draws you most to landscape photography?
“I’ve gone through various ways of thinking about landscape. Ultimately, the landscape is all that we have. We need to find a way of establishing a balance between the human and the non-human, whether that means the spaces between cities or even the wider farming areas. We’re seeing the repercussions of not looking after the world and it worries me. There are so many questions to ask ourselves. Think about rewilding - is it a good thing or not, and can we find a balance between maintaining and managing the land, whilst accepting that we’re going to lose either space for people or space for nature? Photography can help to bring some of those conversations and debates to the forefront of people’s minds.”
'Duncanby's Head' by Gabriel Van Ingen
How did you discover your passion for teaching?
“Higher Education has come so far since I finished my Photography degree at Nottingham Trent University. I had a big physical portfolio of my work but no real understanding of the importance of exhibiting my work or networking to create career opportunities. I couldn’t find any work in the creative industries, so I set up Secta Studios in Nottingham, creating a creative hub where professionals and students could connect and create work then exhibit in the same location for three-week residencies. I discovered that I had a passion for curating and for helping to connect artists and professionals.”
“Over the course of my career I’ve also Launched LUMEN, an online and print magazine of visual art and photography, which I edited and released quarterly for multiple years. More recently I’ve acted as an Ambassador for Docking Station in the Netherlands. Every year each of the ambassadors can put forward nominations for a photography residency in Amsterdam. The winner gets a residency with their own studio and pop-up exhibition. You could say that these have been two key themes in my career, of curating the work of other artists and of supporting and promoting newer photographers.”
'Old Sea Bank' by Gabriel Van Ingen
Where do you see the difference between photography and commercial photography?
“Alongside my work in education, I’ve also worked as a commercial photographer for a lot of private clients. At Arts University Plymouth we have dedicated Photography and Commercial Photography courses and I think it’s important to clarify that although a lot of the fundamental skill sets needed to succeed in each course are similar, the work that you’ll create as a student on my BA (Hons) Photography will be distinct from the kind of work that the Commercial Photography students are making.”
“Instead of focusing on the needs of a client, my students will primarily be asking themselves why they’re taking photographs and what is the broader meaning behind their work. What is the impact? Where is your work situated? How can you convey meaning to an audience?”
“BA (Hons) Photography students will investigate new technologies and methods of thinking, practising social documentary, portraiture, landscape, narrative-driven work and installations. We’ll also explore new emerging technologies.”
'Beaufort's Dyke' by Gabriel Van Ingen
What would you say is the most important thing that you have to offer to someone considering studying BA (Hons) Photography with us?
“In my opinion, the most important thing that I can offer as a Subject Leader at Arts University Plymouth is mentorship. More than anything, I want to see my students succeed. We’ll engage in sharing, critical conversations, tackling difficult questions. I work on the basis that you show me your work this week and next week I’ll show you mine, we’ll learn from each other. And it works. I’ve supported a Level 3 (A-Level-equivalent) student win a prestigious D&AD Yellow Pencil Award, up against degree-level students, which set her on a remarkable career path.”
“For Photography students to succeed and stand out, they need to get involved in everything, putting themselves forward for exhibitions, for competitions, publishing their work in zines, putting it out there at every opportunity. That’s what I’ll encourage all of our students to do at Arts University Plymouth and I can’t wait to see what successes are to come for them.”