Becoming Visible
winning image displayed on London billboard

A poignant photograph that explores MFA student Olivia Cooper’s identity as a mixed-race individual, has won her an outstanding contribution prize and has been broadcast six meters high on a billboard overlooking Old Street in London.

21 Feb 2024

Studying photography at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in Farnham, Olivia responded to an open call, which was part of the 35th Anniversary celebrations of Autograph, an art gallery in London and champion of inclusivity, to tackle their theme, Becoming Visible.

Her winning image, I Am My Mother, was chosen from over 1,000 submissions by artist and judge Hélène Amouzou and comes from Olivia’s current MFA project exploring her multi-cultural heritage as a Western-British raised woman of Asian heritage.

Olivia Cooper standing in front of the hoarding with her winning image at Old Street

The image features her mother wearing a sari to showcase her Indian identity, and placed within a constructed environment.

“It was powerful to see her [Olivia’s mother] involved in my search for identity and belonging,” said Olivia. “The making of this image enabled a reclamation of personal space and place. I hope it will resonate with audiences and they’ll be able to take away a sense of raw and personal representation along with an understanding of all the complexities involved in mixed-race identity.”

Coming from the BA (Hons) Photography course at UCA, Olivia decided to take on the two-year MFA course rather than go straight into the industry so she could develop her professional practice and learn more about the industry.

©Olivia Cooper

“It was a good move for me,” explained Olivia. “I have developed and improved since doing the MFA. As well as being pushed and challenged, the course feels like working in the industry, talking about your work, testing new ideas, learning about professional practice, all facets of what it will entail working as a photographer.”

As for prospective students looking to embark upon their photography careers, Olivia advises them to “experiment and have fun with the medium as much as possible. Test out different ways to use photography because you never know which one you might gel with.”

View Olivia’s winning image in Autograph’s Online Gallery.

Or look out for I Am My Mother, on the six-meter high digital canvas at Old Street Roundabout from now until 3 March, EC1V 1JB.

To learn more about studying photography at UCA, visit the course pages.

© Olivia Cooper

© Olivia Cooper