City Lit Blog

Q&A with Cris Heaton - 'I used to be a photography student'

Story added 20th Mar 2020

Anti-prorogation protest Whitehall August 2019, Cris Heaton


Whilst it may not have been possible to visit the exhibition, 'I used to be a photography student' at the City Lit Gallery, during March we can bring still one of the exhibitors to you.

Cris Heaton's photojournalism was taken at some of the major demonstrations in London last year. Here, he tells us what inspired his work in the show, the City Lit course he took and his interest in music photography, photojournalism, portraiture and documentary street photography.

What course did you complete and what inspired you to sign up to a photography course at City Lit?

I took the City Lit photography course in Spring 2016, which was one day per week over 20 weeks. I was looking for a course that covered a wide range of different areas of photography and this was the most comprehensive I could find anywhere in London. The tutors are excellent, the facilities are very good and the structure of the course means there’s a great deal to learn even if you have already been doing photography in some form for a long time.  

Brexit protest Park Lane March 2019

Brexit protest Park Lane March 2019, Cris Heaton

What was your background prior to signing up to your course at City Lit? 

My background is mostly in writing, editing and journalism. I didn’t come to the course with much of a background in studying photography or working as a photographer, although I had done some music photography for bands in the past.

Have you always had a passion for photography or is it something that has developed more recently?

I began photography when I was quite young – I got a Zenit 122 film camera when I was at school and that’s what I was still using for photographing gigs years later. I later developed an interest in trying out other techniques and mediums and styles – studio flash, large format and many others – and see which appealed to me, which is what motivated me to sign up for the course.  

Betting shop window Roman Road December 2019

Betting shop window Roman Road December 2019, Cris Heaton

Can you tell us about the work that features in the show?

Last year I went to photograph several major demonstrations in London as part of a photojournalism project about protest. I was experimenting with different approaches to recording these kinds of events throughout and ended up with some very different type of images. The one in the show is an example of the kind of picture that I think speaks for itself – it captures enough elements such as the slogan on speaker’s back that you need very little other context to understand what’s going on. Managing to find a set up like that is very satisfying for me.  

Extinction Rebellion protest Marble Arch April 2019

Extinction Rebellion protest Marble Arch April 2019, Cris Heaton

Finally, we should ask... have you got any exciting plans going forward?  

I’m continuing to build up my portfolio in various areas, including music photography, photojournalism, portraiture and documentary street photography. I’m particularly interested in recording places such as the East End and how they have changed. I’m also working in video – I completed a fiction short film last year and am developing some new projects at the moment.

See more of Cris's work at @crisheaton and his website

Ryder the Eagle Sebright Arms Bethnal Green February 2019:

Ryder the Eagle Sebright Arms Bethnal Green February 2019