A Body of work

The changing face of photography in the 21st century
Professor Richard Sawdon Smith
Dean of Arts & Media, NUA


Richard Sawdon Smith is an internationally exhibiting and award-winning British photographer. He is Professor of Photography and Dean of Media at Norwich University of the Arts. He is a former winner of the John Kobal/NPG Photographic Portrait Award (1997), a Board Member of the bookRoom Press, on the Editorial Advisory Panel of the Journal of Photography & Culture  and Co-editor of Langford’s Basic Photography and The Book is Alive!. His photographs and writing are widely published.

For his main research field, his specialism was into the photographic self-portraiture; an artist representations of their own diseased or damaged body exploring issues of ill health, identity and subjectivity, sexuality and classification; the AIDS bod; photography in relation to institutions practices, photographic archives and tattooing; and the artist/photographic book.

For the Professor, his practice was about developing new ideas but not sacrificing quality of the image. His male nudes courted much controversy at the time and there had been many negative responses. There is a line what is fine art and degrading these subjects.

  • Exiles of Normality was about photography and the representation of Diseased Bodies.
  • Pandemic: Facing AIDS
  • Somehow became a poster boy for HIV. So he did more posters.
  • The damaged narcissist  – a different personal.
  • The Anatomical man – widely publicised exhibition. Images published.

After working on a series of projects, he became an object of interest for other photographers/ artists.

Infinite surface

In his most recent collaborative project between the artists, Jonathan Armour and Richard Sawdon Smith was their first public output is the work Infinite Surface. They created a 360-degree image of him using multiple cameras rigs, made into a 3D model avatar, with an inversed skin, so it becomes looking through from inside. It was a VR experience.

They were playing with layers of the real, memories, fiction and the imagined, tattooing, a process using needles to puncture the skin like the blood tests, highlights the medical procedures of illness, making visible the behind-the-scenes routines, referencing not only pain and the rupturing of the body’s surface but the repetition and banalities of life under the clinical gaze.


Towards the end of the session, he encouraged students to explore deeper into their research, and think of approaches they have never thought of possible with collaboration.

My only question for him (though i didnt asked) was, if he had encouraged students to collaborate so as to unlock a greater potential in their works, but in this case, he was successful because he had the access to those multiple camera rigs which was provided by his collaborating partner. If the school does not have such equipment, how can we get around, in the capability of a student with a limited budget?


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