Kiran Tasneem graduated from BA (Hons) Photography in 2015 and went on to win the FloatArt award that same year.

In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Ashurst Emerging Art Prize. Her work, exploring issues of culture, religion and gender, has been exhibited everywhere from London to New York.

How has your work evolved over time? Have you always explored cultural, religious and gender identities?

From a young age, I have been very passionate about gender and cultural identities. I remember always asking my parents about gender roles within the Pakistani community, as I never understood why they existed.

During my second and third year of university, I started researching social statistics in the UK compared to countries in the Middle East and they truly shocked me. I went on to create work that attempts to highlight this inequality. At the moment I am reading more into the Hijab and creating a project where females are removing it.

I also surround myself with like-minded female creatives and it’s their encouragement, knowledge and drive that pushes me forward to do what I do.

How important is it for you to engage in work you are personally passionate about?

I wouldn’t be able to create work that I wasn’t passionate about; it’s that personal passion that drives me to work as hard as I do. Since graduating, I have spent a lot of my time sharing and pushing my work out to galleries and competitions. If I wasn’t passionate about my work I wouldn’t have had the drive to do that.

The personal relationship I have with my work is what keeps me attached to it. I am a lot more comfortable discussing it because it’s something that I am connected to and passionate about. If I wasn’t, could you imagine how boring it’d be? Not just for me, but for the audience too?

You were shortlisted for the Ashurst Emerging Art Prize back in April 2015. What was it like to make the 25-strong shortlist from an initial 750 entries?

I remember getting the phone call. I was at work in a gallery and ran into my manager’s office and screamed! I was ecstatic!

Being shortlisted was an amazing achievement. What made it extra special was that I was one of only two photographers to be shortlisted in the competition.

The experience was great. I went up to the Ashurst offices in London to do an interview about my work, and I also networked with artists and galleries. Being shortlisted from 750 applicants is one of my biggest achievements to date and I am proud of myself.

How did your education at AUB help you to share and focus the work you create?

I’m not sure where to begin; the tutors and technicians are all amazing individuals, all of whom I’m still in touch with. It’s because of the endless support and encouragement from them that I am the person that I am today. I owe a lot of where I am today to Dave Hazel [BA (Hons) Photography Course Leader] because there was never a time when he said no.

He pushed me beyond my boundaries and supported me the whole way. If there was something that I needed for a shoot, he would make sure that I had it. 9am–9pm, he was there.

During my final term, I wanted to exhibit two series of work at our end of year degree show and he stayed with me in the workshop to make 11 frames. A lot of stress and tears later, I put my work up with pride.

Have you had any particularly memorable or surprising responses to your work?

I’ve never had any negative or challenging responses to my work—it’s always been positive. I particularly love it when the audience connect over the work. When I am exhibiting in galleries, I always witness people gathering around my pieces and discussing issues amongst themselves. That’s when I feel most proud of myself: to know that my art is making a difference.

See Kiran’s website for more of her work.

You can find out more about BA (Hons) Photography here.