Photographers Cal McNab and Tamara Clarke Reflect on Their Time on the Make It Easy Residency Program

Words: Gemma Cockrell
Photos: Tamara Clarke
Tuesday 08 August 2023
reading time: min, words

Ahead of Cal McNab and Tamara Clarke’s joint Heartland photography exhibition at No.12 Restaurant this month, which will celebrate the completion of their time on the Make It Easy Residency Program, they caught up with us to reflect on their experiences over the past six months and how the residency has shaped their photography work into what it is today…

Main Image (11)

Heartland will feature the work of Cal McNab and Tamara Clarke, two photographers who were recently awarded a six-month residency and support programme at film development lab and photographic darkroom Make It Easy Lab, supported by Off Centre Nottingham and Cultivate. Both photographers use traditional equipment and practices, medium format film, and the black and white and colour darkroom to print their work.

British-Maltese photographer Tamara produces her images while walking in the landscapes of the Peak District and the Maltese countryside, joining these seemingly very different landscapes together through her mixed cultural heritage and memory. “I find myself continuously pointing my camera towards recurring motifs, the way the sunlight falls on the land, the cycle of the trees as they naturally grow and the ways in which they fall. The fragility of nature compared to its beauty and strength,” she says.

Tamara decided to apply to the residency following the completion of her MA Photography course at Nottingham Trent University, since it would allow her to continue the dialogue that she had created through her education. She says: “The theme of sustainability was what initially drew me into applying, because my practice has always been dominated by landscapes, so I knew it would be a fitting theme for me to explore.”

She feels that the advice and critiques that she received from the team at Make It Easy were vital in allowing her to progress to the position she is in now. “My time and experience of doing the Make It Easy Residency will be something that I will value throughout my continuing photographic journey,” she says. “At the start of the residency I was unsure of my direction, but through the one-to-one sessions, group workshops, and the ongoing support that I got from everyone, it really helped me grow my confidence and develop my practice into something that I can continue to develop.”

Not only were the educational sessions valued so much by Tamara, but the resources played a big part in it all, too. “Without the ability to use the darkroom I probably wouldn’t have wanted to create photos after my Masters degree. So, I am forever grateful for having the space and facilities to continue creating work,” she says.

I find myself continuously pointing my camera towards recurring motifs. The fragility of nature compared to its beauty and strength

Meanwhile, Cal McNab’s series Megawatt Valley focuses on the growth, history, and demise of coal-fired power stations along the length of the River Trent. The title is taken from the industry term for the Trent valley, once the largest concentration of power generation in Western Europe. To satisfy a childhood intrigue, McNab started an exploration of the spaces surrounding Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, and the realisation that it was one of the last of its kind led him in a quest to explore the other sites of power stations along the River. His journey through Megawatt Valley eventually led him inside West Burton Power station, shortly before decommissioning commenced.

Cal started using Make It Easy to get his film developed, before becoming interested in learning some of the darkroom and other practices. “A friend I’d made at the lab encouraged me to apply for the residency and I’m so glad I did,” he says. Despite having never studied a creative discipline, he feels that the residency helped him to hone in on what he wanted to do with his photography. “Having funding to use on film and to access the colour darkroom has also brought my skillset a long way,” he adds.

His biggest takeaway from the residency has been the support he has received from the community at Make It Easy, particularly within the monthly photo socials, where people can turn up and share their work, and receive encouragement and guidance from others. If you would like to attend one of these, check out Make It Easy’s Instagram page, where you can find all of the details.

The Heartland Photography Exhibition will take place at No.12 Restaurant, 11 August - 18 August


We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.