An interview with Luke Blazejewski: Stories of the River Irwell

CAF volunteer, Edwina McEachran speaks with Luke Blazejewski ahead of his forthcoming event as part of the festival…

Cutting through the heart of Greater Manchester is the River Irwell. With an abundance of diverse wildlife havens scattered alongside it, it’s no wonder that conservationist and wildlife photographer Luke Blazejewski has found a love for this haven in the outskirts of urban Salford.

As part of Chortlon Arts Festival, Luke Blazejewski will be screening his film Stories of the River Irwell’ which takes us on a short but spectacular visual journey along the river, narrated by the people that have come to know it best. I ask about his love of the river, and what influences his creativity.

Where does your interest in Salford and River Irwell stem from?

When I first moved to Salford I was struck by the amount of biodiversity you could find along the riverbank. I started to dig a little deeper into the history of the River Irwell and discovered its incredible industrial heritage, which made the wildlife you can find along its corridor even more special to me.

 Your short film ‘Stories of the River Irwell’ features locals who, for some, have grown up with a negative view of the river. How do you use your images and cinematography to effective positive change in this area?

 The film has had an amazing impact on people’s longstanding perceptions of the river, particularly in regards to wildlife. It’s been screened at a few venues around Manchester and the responses have been very humbling. Some people have even told me they have started to walk along the river more often, keeping an eye out for the migratory birds like the goldeneye, which is the most incredible feedback you could ever hope for.

Most people are unaware of what the life of a wildlife photographer consists of, could you give us an insight of what life is like in the field?

I like to think of the life of a wildlife photographer as 1-part glamour and a 99-parts mud, sweat and tears. Animals very rarely do what you want them to do (or be where you want them to be!), and so patience is a key part of the job.

That being said, it can take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world. The biggest reward for any wildlife photographer is catching a glimpse of the animal you were looking for, often after waiting for 7-8 hours in a remote location, alone, with no mobile phone reception (and often quite hungry). In my case, being a photographer also allows you to uncover the best-kept secrets of our cities and teach people about the biodiversity of their doorstep.

 Who or what influences your creativity and what makes them so special?

 My biggest inspiration is nature herself. I always say the plants and animals I photograph do all the work; I’m just an observer at the end of the day. After all they’ve spent millions of years evolving into the perfect forms they are today; the subtly of shape and pattern in a butterfly’s wing needs no modification. Being able to represent and celebrate the diversity of life we have in our cities is what makes being a wildlife photographer so special.

Where can our readers go to find out more about conservation efforts around the river and in Salford? 

 You can join our Facebook group Nature in Salford, or follow us on Twitter @NatureInSalford, and we hope to see you at one of our future events very soon!

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