Just as he was finishing up his photography and graphic design studies at the U.K. school Kingston Upon Thames, James Huse was stunned by news that Britain’s universities would be impacted by deep budget cuts which would drastically affect higher education in the country. He immediately began planning a photo project where he could protest the cuts not only with the subject he chose, but also through the method of the photography itself. “I wanted the photos to be a celebration of what I’ve learned over the past three years of uni and a stark reminder of the necessity of funding for teaching, training, and technical equipment,” Huse tells Co.Design.
The result is An Abrupt End, a stunning high-speed photography series that doubles as a serious statement about the end of creative funding in his country.
The photos are a serious statement about the end of creative funding.
Huse began the project by concepting what image could show the most “abrupt end.” The answer came quickly: A popping balloon. At first, he planned to capture the balloons with only air inside, but then realized the value of adding different elements for dramatic effect. “Once I’d set the equipment up, it seemed daft not to experiment!” he says. After several test runs with different liquids — and a few where he added glitter to the mixtures — he realized that straight milk provided the best effect. “I think the stark contrast between the milk and the backdrop highlighted the details and splashes much more effectively than just water,” he says.
The shoot itself was a time- and labor-intensive collaboration with several of his fellow students, which Huse explains could only have been made possible by his years of university training. He reinforced this on the final posters he created with the images, where he included a comprehensive list of tools, training, and equipment (and their dollar amounts) needed to capture the exploding balloons. Just for comparison, Huse then shot a series of secondary images where he imagined he had none of the tools or training. They’re appropriately amateur-looking, just the point Huse was trying to make.
Huse hopes to continue the project to keep the focus on education and spending — especially now that he’s out of school and facing his own economic realities. “An Abrupt End” also stands for the stark transition he himself had to make from the creative environment of school to the less-forgiving professional world. But applying what he learned in a way that can get people’s attention for a cause was an incredibly rewarding experience, he says. “It’s one of the more satisfying and exciting shoots I’ve ever done.”