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Vinyl records inspire photography student’s first exhibition

Ella Barnes with one of her works in Sunderland College’s state-of-the-art photography studio

A creative student from Sunderland College has combined her passion for music with her photography skills to produce a range of works for a city centre exhibition.

Ella Barnes, aged 17, has developed more than 20 photographic portraits of record-collecting enthusiasts which originally formed part of her A-Level photography course.

The works feature a variety of people and consider the emotional connection and personal histories they have with music and their own vinyl collections.

Ella has now organised an exhibition of her work, called Music Boxes, which will be held at Pop Recs Ltd in Sunderland – the shop which first inspired the project.

She said: “In my spare time I intern at Pop Recs Ltd and last Christmas the boys in the shop bought me a record player – this is what really got me started on building my own record collection.

“I’ve always been interested in and around music since I was little, so this seemed like the perfect response to the ‘personal project’ I was asked to complete as part of my A-Level photography course at Sunderland College.

“The portraits depict a broad range of people of varying ages and have handwritten captions which convey in their own words why a particular piece of music is important to them, at times recounting stories from the past and present.”

Music Boxes is the first exhibition Ella has organised and it is the very first time her work will be on display to the general public.

She added: “I’m really excited to see all of my photographs together, actually printed and mounted up, and it has been really interesting to find out what makes a record important to someone.

“I’ve actually found it very rewarding to find out just how people respond to music and how their favourite record makes them feel – in some cases I’ve been able to gain an insight into their memories connected to the record which has importance to them.”

Ella, who is in her second year of study, is also taking A-Levels in Fine Art and English Literature, and she hopes to study illustration at Leeds College of Art when she completes her studies at Sunderland College.

She said: “I am enjoying the courses, although they are demanding at times I think it has allowed me to gain confidence in my own abilities.”

Robin Cowings, Ella’s photography lecturer at Sunderland College, added: “Ella is a very talented and ambitious student and I am very proud to be helping her climb the first rungs of the career ladder towards a bright future in photography.

“The exhibition is such a simple, but profound idea, that everyone can connect with. The images look great and I’m hoping that the show is a massive success for her. I could see these images being developed even further into something exciting like a book and a touring exhibition, picking up more portraits and stories along the way.”

The Music Boxes preview takes place on Monday 16 March from 7-9pm at Pop Recs Ltd, and the exhibition runs until 19 April.

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