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Atli from Iceland, BA in Photography

‘What I was especially happy to find out is how much, especially in the UK, photography is considered as an art form.’

Atli Freyr Steinsson came to the UK from Iceland to study for a BA in Photography at Leeds College of Art, with the aim of improving his creative skills – but he found there’s a lot more to learn about building a career in the industry.

Read on for his advice for budding photography students, and check out some examples of his photography below!

Can you give us a bit of background on why you chose a UK qualification?

'Photography is not taught at a university level in Iceland, which made me want to study abroad, along with the craving to travel. I wanted this level of education to develop my skills, and for the highly increased career prospects.

'Getting a degree in the UK means easy access to big cultural centres with multiple possibilities of future work connections and experience. UK universities are also known to have high-quality education and a variety of different courses to choose from.'

What did you find most inspiring about your degree and institution?

'I found it great how much emphasis the institution puts on preparing you for the future industry, in all possible aspects. That there is equal focus on technical skills, conceptual skills and necessary but less attractive skills relating to business, legal matters (copyright, model release etc.) and self promotion.'

Want to study photography in the UK?

How did your perception of photography change as a result of your studies?

'I have realised that photography requires infinitely more skills than I first thought! Creating good work requires a lot more intensive planning and consideration of paperwork, like copyright and other legal matters.

'Communication skills are also a lot more important than I originally thought, even more so than technical skills. I also found that photography is a much more respected industry, and what I was especially happy to find out is how much, especially in the UK, photography is considered as an art form.'

What did you like about the teaching methods and styles you experienced?

'Probably the fact that you get full freedom to work in your field of interest, and to develop and experiment with that in your own style.'

What does being ‘creative’ mean to you?

‘Creative means managing to successfully show others what your view of the world is like.'

'Fashion Beach' (All photos © Atli Freyr Steinsson)

What advice would you give students hoping to apply to your degree or course?

'Don’t be afraid to stand out and create the work you want. Developing your own vision will make it easier in the future to create images, because then you know exactly what you want to do and how. Personal style will also help you stand out from other photographers, and gets you many more opportunities.'

Is there a memory of a trip, a workshop, a course or a speech that really stands out?

'Recently, a photographer called Adam Murray had a lecture at college. His work is very carefree and low budget. He doesn’t think too much about money or other resources, he just creates the work he wants and then makes it as accessible and cheap as he can. This way he easily gets his work seen.

'What inspired me the most was that he told us not to worry too much or think too much before we go out and create something. Just go out and do it; something great will happen if you stop worrying.'

What are your ambitions for the future?

'All I know is that I want to become a successful photographer at some point in time. I have way too many photographic interests at the moment, so I’m not sure what I want most.

'At the moment shooting editorials for Vogue, photographing lions for National Geographic or following Sigur Rós around on tour with a camera in hand are all equal ambitions of mine! I guess I’ll just have to see what happens in the future.'

What’s your number one memory of your time as a student?

'I hope that moment is yet to come.'

Untitled (© Atli Freyr Steinsson)

Examples of Atli's fashion and portrait photography (© Atli Freyr Steinsson)

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