Avon Stories Podcast #21: Photography, film, heritage and more, with Dr Shawn Sobers

I met Shawn Sobers when I was doing my Photography degree at the University of the West of England, and he was one of my professors.  But that’s just one of the many strings to his bow – Shawn is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and curator, and I always found his community-based practice and his range of interests to be completely inspiring.

We went for a walk along the Avon in Lacock, exploring the landscape where Henry Fox Talbot lived and created processes that gave us modern photography.   While we walked, we talked about teaching photography, Shawn’s film practice, his work with National Trust sites helping communities research their links to Transatlantic slavery, and his own role in running a heritage site, curating the Tafari Gallery at Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie lived in exile in Bath.

Please do forgive the patches of audio problems in the recording.  We were walking in the March snow, on a day full of weather warnings, and it proved a bit too much for my audio equipment!

Find out more about Shawn on his website, which has a selection of films we talked about, including his 1999 film on Haile Selassie, Footsteps of the Emperor, his recent art film about the sinking of the SS Mendi, a ship carrying Black South African Labour Corps troops to serve in World War I, and Under The Bridge, the 1990s film for HTV exploring Transatlantic slavery in Bristol, including the River Avon:

UPDATE!  And you can watch the film, Blood Sugar, that he’d just finished making, in collaboration with poet Michelle Mother Hubbard, the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group and Newstead Abbey.

I really recommend having a look around Shawn’s website, because we only scratched the surface of his projects and interests.  I’d recommend his African Kinship Systems series, and his Red, White and You? project, and of course, his photography and  camera phone projects.  You can find more of his academic research projects on his UWE staff profile.

Fairfield House has a website and facebook, and of course, make sure you’re following Shawn on his instagram and twitter.

Photo used with kind permission of Dr Shawn Sobers.

If you’re interested in following the route we walked, it’s the Lacock Riverside Walk, except we walked more along the riverside, and there are a few of my photos from the walk here.   There’s a lot more about Lacock Abbey on the National Trust website, and a good starting point for more about William Henry Fox Talbot’s contributions to photography is his wikipedia.


You can download this podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up for all the future podcasts via the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud to make sure you hear all the future stories.  You can also follow the project on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the rivers and other waters in Bristol.

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