Gradwatch 2021: Photographer Maria Meco Sanchez, UWE Bristol

Photographer Maria Meco Sanchez is one of the ten creatives we’ve selected to feature in our annual Gradwatch showcase, where we put the spotlight on the art and design grads who we feel are producing outstanding creative work

Maria Meco Sanchez’s work sits somewhere between fiction and reality, and comes with a slightly haunting quality. Shape and shadow dance eerily in x-ray style images, or grainy black and white photographs of children and dogs that seem plucked from another time. Even the more overtly joyful moments she captures are imbued with a subtle nostalgia for lost summers.

“I still have a lot of practice to do, but I feel like over the years I’ve got much better at learning what my eye is attracted to and nurturing that,” the photographer tells us. “I know that my photos are very influenced by all the things I read and I see, consciously or unconsciously. I try to be quite discerning when it comes to choosing those, especially now that we’re surrounded by images 24/7.”

All images by Maria Meco Sanchez

The Spanish photographer gained her BA in photography from the University of the West of England in Bristol, having previously studied a BA in media and communication back in Spain. She enjoyed immersing herself in a creative environment on the photography course, including “the opportunity to develop a narrative with your work, the chance to use facilities from other courses, to talk to guest speakers, and an amazing team of technicians always happy to help,” she says. For someone curious like herself, it was like “a playground”.

“For me the problem was time. I don’t think three years in uni is enough time to experiment freely as you always have tight deadlines plus having to work to maintain yourself, sometimes balancing your personal life on top of that becomes quite tricky and can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress,” she reflects. “I changed to part time in my last year, and it’s something I would recommend to everyone in artistic degrees, it really made the difference and helped me to feel less pressure and get the best out of the degree.”

Her time at university was naturally made all the more complicated by the pandemic, which meant things didn’t always go as planned. “Not having access to the facilities for most of the semesters and the general lockdown blues slowed me from trying ideas out and kind of felt like a never-ending circle of sameness at some points,” she explains.

“The outcome of my last project ideally would have been an installation, [but] ended up being a book which I’m really happy with. However, considering the nature of a book, to build that momentum and have that constant back and forth of ideas, changes and feedback from people, you need to be in a space with all those things happening and to work constantly on it.”

Now that she’s finished university, Meco Sanchez is doing her best to stay focused, inspired and adaptable. “I’m trying to go with the flow and develop my work with what’s around me.”

Although she doesn’t like to look too far ahead, she has hopes to collaborate with artists from different disciplines, like musicians or dancers. While it’s difficult right now, she would also like to travel more with her photography, and likes the idea of experimenting on album covers: “You can get very playful and creative with those.”

“I’d love doing an installation piece at some point too,” she adds. “It’s such an immersive and great way to tell a story and would allow me to combine all the things I’m interested in.”