Tia Payne Gradwatch

Gradwatch 2023: Tia Payne, UWE Bristol

Photographer Tia Payne was chosen as part of our annual Gradwatch showcase, where we celebrate the next generation of talent in the creative industries

The sign of a good photographer is someone who’s able to capture an entire mood in a single moment. While she’s only just starting out, Tia Payne’s evocative images of sweaty raves and sunny festival scenes clearly show it’s an ability which comes naturally to her.

Studying fashion communication at the University of West England was a “last minute” decision, she tells CR. When she looked into what the course involved, she felt sure it would challenge her to explore new ways of thinking and contextualise her work.

Tia Payne Gradwatch

“Our course was very broad and over the course of the three years it was about finding your path within fashion – whether that be styling, photography, art direction, the list goes on,” says Payne. “We had many group projects where you were assigned a specific role and this enabled us to really challenge ourselves in finding out our strengths and weaknesses.”

The layout of the course was also designed to teach students about what the industry is really like. They worked with the likes of Tank Magazine, Smiley and Fred Perry on various real-life briefs, which the photographer found particularly insightful.

Tia Payne Gradwatch

Over the course of the three years, Payne tried out a number of different mediums and disciplines before finally settling on film photography. “My personal passion was combining music and fashion,” she says. “Creating projects which centred around Bristol’s music scene or creating work for brands that had a focus on music.”

The photographer started shooting professionally while still at uni, doing press shots for local artists and documenting music events in Bristol and around the UK. Since graduating, she’s travelled to Croatia to document Outlook Festival and has just done her first fly poster campaign with ticketing app Dice, which saw her images appear across New York, London, and Barcelona.

Tia Payne Gradwatch

Payne hasn’t forgotten her roots in fashion though, and looking ahead she wants to find the right balance between her two main interests. “I really want to continue shooting music and I feel really at home doing this style of work, but I’d love to push it further and this be my full-time job,” she says. “I think pushing myself into fusing this work within fashion campaigns and working with brands is something I can really see myself doing.”

The pandemic, which overlapped with Payne’s studies, also taught her some important lessons about the industry she is entering into. As real-life events ground to a halt altogether in 2020, she witnessed first-hand just how unpredictable a freelance creative practice can be.

Tia Payne Gradwatch

The photographer did, however, draw some positives from the experience too. “I personally think the pandemic has created a new path for us creatives,” she says. “I think there are fewer opportunities, but I think for the most part the creative industry had the chance to reflect on what they’re doing, and it gave us a window to really push what we’re doing.”

As for the piece of advice she’ll be carrying into her burgeoning career? “Make time to create personal work,” she says. “Even if we are in a creative job making work for others, using our free time to have passion projects will develop our practice more and keep us creative.”

Tia Payne Gradwatch