As I sit down to interview her, she kicks her feet up and takes a sip of her tea. I open up my laptop and she smiles nervously.
I cannot help but question, why is she nervous now? This is the easy part. But then you realise that although there is no doubt that her photography is incredible, Cherie Bridges doesn’t know how good she is,
“This is my worst nightmare Maddie.”
Bridges is a final year Marine and Natural History Photography student at Falmouth University. Her course is prestigious and notoriously hard to get on to. Surprising then that until four years ago she’d hardly picked up a camera,
“I applied to do music, English and journalism and all sorts of courses and I got in to all of them. I just remember sitting there and thinking ‘I don’t want to do this for three years, why am I doing this?’
“So, I went away, got really into scuba diving on my gap year and accidentally came across the course.”
It was lucky that she did “accidentally” find the course because now Bridges is working with some of the biggest names in the industry.
At just 20-years-old she has been commissioned by Green Peace, a moment she describes as one of her most proudest yet,
“Working for Green Peace was really important for me because I really believe in them as a company.
“It makes a huge difference to me to be working for something that I know is benefitting everyone, or will do. My work is now out there and it’s making a difference.”
Her recent work in Egypt for Green Peace is just the tip of the iceberg. Bridges has been published in ‘Oceanographic Magazine’ and the Surfers Against Sewage magazine, ‘Pipeline’.
But there is more, after going to Burma in the summer of 2017 to document the Rohingya Crisis her work was recognised by Expedition Studios.
She will soon be heading back to Burma to continue documenting the crisis, whilst also working as a liaison with the company to organise future expeditions.
Despite all this there were once doubters. Friends and family telling her over and over again that photography was not a viable career, that it was just a hobby,
“I guess what drives me and pushes me is the fact that people told me I couldn’t make a living out of photography.”
She laughs for a moment and then leans back. She pauses and suddenly the fun loving, jokey final year student disappears. She’s serious,
“When I first started scuba diving I fell in love with the ocean and that’s how I got into the world of under-water photography.
“As I’ve developed as a student and got better at things, I’ve become more aware of the stories that I want to tell and the narratives that I want to show people through my work.”
If there was ever a time for people to see that this is not just a hobby this is it. There is passion in her eyes. This is not something she just wants to do, it is something that she needs to do.
The things she has seen over her three years on her degree have changed her, moulded her and given birth to a photographer who yearns to tell the stories of those without voices.
But it hasn’t been easy for Bridges, going to these places and seeing what is happening in the world has had an impact on the young photographer,
“I don’t think I realised how big the problems were that I was being asked to photograph. Things like plastic pollution, I didn’t realise the incredible impact it was having until I went out there and actually photographed it.
“The same with working in Burma and the people I spoke to, just the suffering and the stories that I had to tell were really harrowing. It was hard at times to portray to people what’s happening on the other side of the world.”
She takes another sip of her tea and pauses,
“I didn’t cope with it very well to be perfectly honest. For the first week, I was just terrified of everything. I just couldn’t ask people questions, I just didn’t know how to act. Eventually I got my head around it and remembered that my purpose there was to tell the story.
“It was when I got back that it became really hard. I was trying to talk to people about it and they didn’t particularly care to be honest because it’s so outside of their normal world.
“That’s when the difficulty really came, it was just hard to make people understand what I had seen.”
Even now as she talks you can see what her time out there meant to her. She has laid witness to a world that some will never see and it is hard to understand how that sits on the shoulders of a young woman.
But somehow Bridges copes, she stays strong for those she tells the stories of. She is undeterred by the trauma,
“My ultimate goal would be to tell stories that people haven’t seen before. I’m a story teller, I want to go places that people haven’t been before and to show them things that I feel are important to the future.
“I’m excited, the world is my oyster.”
To see more of Cherie Bridge’s work go to: http://bit.ly/CherieBridgesInstagram