During National Volunteers' Week 2022, Art UK is celebrating the contributions made by our sculpture project volunteers. During the first week of June, we will showcase a different volunteer story each day that details why and how they decided to participate.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Frances Price and in April 2021 I left my university clerical post after 40 years. I was determined that I wanted to keep busy in retirement. Photography has been my passion for the last 20 years and I'm secretary of my local camera club, so I hoped that I could get involved in something photographic whether paid or voluntary.
Why did you apply for your role within the Art UK sculpture project?
I heard about the Art UK call for volunteer photographers through the Royal Photographic Society, of which I am a member. Northern Ireland was one of the areas where volunteers were needed as they were getting to the end of the project. I immediately emailed to say I was interested.
Please briefly describe your role for the Art UK sculpture project
Very soon I was on board and given all the necessary information for the public sculpture project. I felt I was more suited to the photography side of things and so just wanted to get involved with that.
At first the 81-page volunteer manual seemed daunting, but in actual fact the photography section was the only bit I needed, and it was set out so clearly that I had no trouble learning how the images needed to be named and filed, and how the spreadsheet needed to be completed to record the correct images for each sculpture. Fortunately, I was used to post-processing images and had a reasonable knowledge of Adobe Lightroom.
I was given a list of sculptures for County Antrim, 39 in total. So, in mid-June 2021, I set off to visit my first sculpture, the County Antrim War Memorial, 1,230 feet above sea level, overlooking Belfast and across the lough to North Down.
I spent the next few weeks covering the rest of my list and even discovered seven new ones. I was blessed with good weather and was having such a good time that when I submitted my completed images, I said I was happy to take on more if I could help. I was given County Londonderry and subsequently part of County Armagh.
What did you enjoy most within your role on the Art UK sculpture project?
I think I enjoyed the sense of 'being on a mission' each day I set out. I would leave the house with my list carefully prepared and my camera bag packed. Often, I was going to areas of the country I had never been to before and that's what made it so interesting. I also took the opportunity to have coffee or lunch in local cafes which I just wouldn't have done normally and to look round some of the villages and towns. I also found I was doing a lot of walking, which can only ever be a good thing!
Was there anything about your role that you found particularly challenging?
As the weather was unusually good for most of the time, I found that sometimes the lighting would be challenging, especially if a sculpture was above me and a bright sky formed the backdrop. Parking was occasionally problematic, but as I was happy to walk, I didn't mind having to park some distance away from a sculpture. My least favourite sculptures were those in roundabouts, requiring me to cross each road in the 360-degree path to get the shots.
Were there any new skills you developed during your role with Art UK?
I had to learn to photograph to the brief set out by Art UK. I found that I adapted to this very quickly and was soon able to approach each sculpture in a consistent manner and save and rename each group of images in the correct fashion.
Many of the sculptures were far from my home in Belfast. That required me to sit down the night before and plan my journey. By using Google Maps and the grid references I made a list of those sculptures closest together that I could cover in a day. I then used the app What Three Words to get a reference for each and entered them in my phone. What a brilliant app – it took me to the exact location every time!
Volunteering with Art UK gave me a lot of confidence in my photographic ability and I have subsequently taken on freelance property photography for a large estate agent which I am finding really interesting.
Are there any interesting or funny anecdotes that have happened whilst volunteering?
One of the sculptures in Carrickfergus was of William III (King Billy). However, when I arrived, poor King Billy was surrounded by scaffolding and enclosed within the fenced-off set for the film Dungeons and Dragons. A word with a security guard and production of my letter of identification got me access, but there wasn't much I could do about the film crew's scaffolding and equipment.
Since volunteering I have given a talk to my camera club on my experiences. I called it 'Chasing Statues'!
What were your favourite sculptures visited/photographed for the project?
Working on this project with Art UK has given me a greater appreciation for sculptures as an art form which I didn't have before. I was also amazed at the variety of forms they take from war memorials, drinking fountains, towers and murals to the more traditional sculptures created by an artist.
One of the most poignant, for me, has to be the statue of a little girl in memory of those lost in the Armagh rail disaster of 1889, when a packed excursion train crashed killing 80 and injuring 260, many of them children.
I loved the mural in Derry depicting the actors in the hit Channel Four comedy series Derry Girls.
Another favourite was The Children of the Lir located in the picturesque town of Ballycastle.
Frances Price, Art UK Volunteer
Art UK thanks each and every volunteer that contributed their time to capturing an incredible record of public sculpture in the UK.
More photographs by sculpture project volunteers can be viewed in a Curation: Art UK Volunteer Photographers Gallery