Following Maja Daniels’ exhibition on the stairs at Labyrinth Photographic we invited Emma Bowkett, Photo Editor of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine, to interview Maja for The Stare Show.
Emma Bowkett: Let’s begin with Monette and Mady. You talk about seeing them first in the street in Paris and being captivated. When was this?
Maja Daniels: Until the year 2010 I lived in Paris and I first saw the twins near my house, on a Sunday, at the local fruit and vegetable market. I was stunned by their identical outfits and synchronized corporal language. A bit like Alice’s White Rabbit, they were there and then gone in a flash. I remember thinking that they might not be real as I searched for them in the crowd, only to make sure that my mind wasn’t playing tricks with me. Several times after that I only ever saw them in passing, they always seemed to be on their way somewhere. As soon as I had spotted them, they were already gone.
Years later, when I finally approached them, it turned out we had been living on parallel streets, very close to each other for all that time. It felt very ironic since I left Paris for London only a couple of months after our first shoot.
EB: Two such private people, and also performers, how easy is it to be the auteur?
MD: Already familiar with acting and modelling - Monette and Mady have made appearances in French films such as Amelie de Montmartre and Paris Je T’Aime, danced in a George Michael video as well as posed for numerous adverts and fashion editorials - it turned out to be easy to get them to agree to a first portrait session. Although it was clear to me from the start that I wanted to stay in touch with Monette and Mady with the prospect of starting a long-term project with them, it turned out to be quite a challenging task to make them see why that would be of any interest.
They didn’t quite understand why I was interested to document their everyday life. I had to put some effort into making them understand how fascinated I am by what seems so natural to them. We are constantly negotiating what it is that we are doing together and although Mady and Monette enjoy the attention of being photographed, it took me a year to get them to agree to let me follow them a bit more intimately. This grew out of staying in touch and getting to know each other better. When one of the first images I took of them ended up on the walls of the National portrait Gallery for the Taylor Wessing prize here in London, Mady and Monette were very pleased and from there on things have been easier and I now feel like they trust me fully. This doesn’t mean that they will agree to everything I suggest. They often reject many of my ideas but this is essential to our project since I want it to reflect their own vision of themselves in the world.
EB: Do you feel like you are complicit in their lives?
MD: I don’t feel complicit in the sense that if I weren’t there things would be different. Mady and Monette are not playing a part for the camera. However, being there with the camera is certainly encouraging them to maintain their lifestyle. Everybody responding to Mady and Monette as they walk down the street everyday play a big part in this too since the twins really enjoy the attention and find it amusing to see how we ‘singular’ people react to them the way we do. It is fascinating to them. If they ever go out dressed differently people come up to them, asking why they argue.
Mady says that although dressing identically is sometimes a pain (hard to find interesting clothing as they prefer the vintage ‘look’) it has become something that is a part of their bodies, something they don’t think about. It is part of who they are.
EB: You have recently been shooting still life’s of their belongings. It feels to me like this project has endless possibilities. What’s next?
MD: We are planning to do something with film. Mady and Monette have danced together since they were eight. They do the Tango, the waltz and contemporary style and I want to capture that. I am also photographing their collections of twin objects and I have given Mady and Monette one camera each to see what they get up to… I am very excited about this.
EB: How important is collaboration in your work?
MD: I find photography to be a rather aggressive act so it is essential for me to collaborate with my subjects. I feel much more comfortable if, by photographing I can create something that is meaningful to the subject as well to myself. To photograph another person comes with that responsibility. Working on long term projects means developing relationships and maintaining an exchange over time, it has to be fulfilling to all parts.
EB: Your project with Monette and Mady has received a lot of press. How do they react to this?
MD: They love it. I send them a copy of all the magazines and links to all the online articles.
EB: Do you feel that the project will reach a natural conclusion?
MD: I hope it will… although I don’t want it to end. I want to follow Mady and Monette over the years as they grow older but I might have to make a ‘Part 1’ at some point and then revisit…
EB: You are currently doing your Masters in Sociology. How does this inform your practice?
MD: Sociology has always been a huge source of inspiration to me and I feel like it’s very relevant to my way of working. I did a BA part-time in France and once I had finished I missed it a lot so I decided to do a Masters as well, still part-time. It’s hard to find the time for everything and I feel like I’m stretching myself a bit but who knows, I might have to do a PHD as well in order to keep making work!
Having said that, I find that academia on its own can be rather limiting as it has a very narrow audience. Photography opens up sociological topics to a much broader audience and as the medium of photography allows for an interesting tension between ‘truth’ and ‘fiction’, I feel much more comfortable communicating in pictures since I don’t want to try to tell truths or pin down people or events to numbers or theories. I want to engage with the ‘real’ world in a more subjective, profound and creative way.
EB: How much is age and gender important?
MD: Very important. All my projects so far speak about and comment on contemporary issues related to the limitations of the body. The idea of a ‘failing’ body is something that we in the west don’t seem to be able to accept. Disease, ageing and dying thus represent big taboos. My project about Alzheimer’s disease was very much a comment on society’s changing attitude to a ‘remaining body’ once the mind fades away. All of a sudden, the role of the body is drastically, and shockingly renegotiated so that we - in the name of “care” - can confine the body as we allow ourselves to think of the person as somewhat ‘gone’. The project about the twins highlights a positive and alternative attitude to ageing, since Mady and Monette refuse to conform to the stereotypes that are related to an “ageing body”. At the same time, the project is just as much a commentary on how disruptive and fascinating it is for us “singular people” (as Mady and Monette would say) to witness how one identity expands into two physical bodies. This makes us think about he limits of our own identity, our ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’ and how we are constantly in conversation with ourselves.
I currently I have another project ongoing that deals with the female body and how, without saying too much about it, we find ways to try to deal with physical expectations and how this shapes our identity. Another ongoing project is about how new technology and ‘knowledge’ related to genetic research forces us to ‘rethink’ our bodies and our femininity in relation to new medical policies.
I tend to think of the body and somewhat out of place within society and I find that contradiction really interesting…
EB: We recently ran River Valley Vernacular in the magazine. You mentioned a film. How is this going?
MD: I am increasingly thinking of The River Valley Vernacular as a very slow, long-term project. Parallel to meeting more Älvdalska-speaking youngsters, more personal and intimate accounts will find their way into the narrative as well. I also aim to incorporate an interesting archive from a photographer who lived in Älvdalen in the early 1900’s. He photographed with a vision that my own work echoes and has similarities to. His images evoke a strong sense of wonder and mystery, the very same notions that attracted me to go back to Älvdalen 100 years later.
We are in the process of potentially going there to start to film this summer, as I keep shooting. The most essential part for me however is to eventually make a local exhibition that will travel and to make a book. Stay tuned.
EB: To me your work, a combination of staging and documentary, has a cinematic feel. What are your thoughts on this?
MD: Thanks, I take that as a compliment! I think of my work as story-telling. I like for ‘the stories’ to be rooted in real events, evolve around real people but it is important for me to create a subjective narrative. Since I can only tell one story, I have to make sure it is my own. I want to comment on contemporary society, it’s people and events but I don’t want to speak for others.
EB: Does your time with Peter Lindbergh influence the way you shoot?
MD: Yes, a lot. I learned so much working with Peter on many different levels. Mainly, he taught me important lessons about how to tell stories visually and how crucial it is for an image to be visually compelling. A lot of Peter’s work has a reportage vibe to it, especially his series of models walking around the streets of big cities. He started doing this at a time when most fashion photography still happened in the studio and I found this daring crossover approach very inspiring. It made me appreciate the blurring of boundaries between genres within photography and the project with Mady and Monette is very much a product of that.
EB: And finally, travel pillows. Yes or no?
Ha! No way!
Throughout April Maja Daniels will be exhibiting a variety of images from her ongoing series, ‘Mady and Monette’ on the stairs at Labyrinth.
Mady & Monette
Through my interest in documenting the contemporary western world, I started considering the general lack of visual representations of issues related to older generations. As I found myself in this process, I met Mady and Monette.
Monette and Mady are identical twins. They have lived their whole life closely together and are, as they say, inseparable.
I first saw them on the streets of Paris and I was instantly fascinated by their identical outfits and synchronised corporal language. Quirky and beautiful, they stood out from any crowd. As I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, I remember thinking that they might not be real.
When I approached them I was not surprised to discover that they often finish each other’s sentences and that they refer to themselves as « I » instead of « we ».
Neither Mady nor Monette have married or had children and they always eat the same kind of food in identical portions. They are also keen collectors of miniature twin objects and most of their belongings exist as duplicates.
Monette and Mady do not just share a close relationship as sisters; as a couple they act, model and dance together and the city of Paris is their main stage. If they ever go out dressed in different outfits, people stop and ask why they argue.
Since a great part of Mady and Monette’s lives is about performing, in front of cameras or on a stage as well as on the street, this project consists of a mix of staged and documentary images. The more staged photographs are alternated with pictures of the sisters interacting naturally as they go about their daily business. Since Mady and Monette are both eccentric yet very private people, this combination reflects their lives, particularly since it is not always obvious to tell the two approaches apart.
Additionally, when I first spotted the sisters, I wasn’t quite sure that they were real so this addition of fiction makes for a dreamy atmosphere, a bit like a mirage that reflects my initial impression of them. The streets of Paris make the perfect backdrop for such ambiguity to be played out, confusing us with its reference to fashion, film and art. It makes the documenting of everyday events somewhat surreal.
Mady and Monette are indifferent to the many stereotypes that are related to ageing. They have in fact long stopped celebrating their birthdays and they defy any pre-conceived notions related to growing old. This series is an intimate journal of their togetherness and as an alternative take on the complex issues that accompanies the notion of “ageing” today; I aim to pursue this series over the years, as Mady and Monette grow older.
Swedish-born Maja Daniels is based in London, UK. Using sociology as a frame of research and approach, Daniels’ work focusses on human relations in a western, contemporary environment.
She is the recipient of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prizem and was a second prize winner of the Sony World Photography awards 2012. She was a participant in the 2012 World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and selected as one of the 2011 and 2012 Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographers.
Daniels’ photographs have been included in exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts (London), The Photographers’ Gallery (London), The National Portrait Gallery (London) and Getxophoto (Bilbao).
Apart from her dedication to long-term personal projects she also collaborates with the weekly and monthly press as well as cultural institutions and social scientists within academic projects.
Kate Peters is represented by INSTITUTE for Artist Management. We invited Anna Pfab, Cultural Manager at INSTITUTE, to interview Kate as part of her February Stare Show at Labyrinth.
Anna Pfab: Kate - can you tell us what your first experience with photography was, and when and why you decided to pursue photography professionally?
Kate Peters: My first experience with photography was at secondary school aged around 15 years. I went to an alternative school that was very art based. We had an amazing photography teacher who massively inspired me and I was hooked. She introduced me to Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus, Rineke Dijkstra and Andre Kertesz amongst many others.
I loved being hands on, being able to experience the world, meet people and interact. The element of chance, the unknown, developing your film: it was and still is so exciting.
I started off shooting weird still life images of dead fish and other animals that my brother, a gamekeeper would bring home, along with persuading my friends to pose nude on photography field trips to stately homes. Not much has changed!
I didn’t think about photography as a profession until I moved to London after Art College in Falmouth and started assisting other photographers.
AP: What and who inspires you?
KP: Life in general and people are my biggest inspiration. I love watching life happen around me, I want my work to reveal stories about real people, places and things. I’ve always watched and read short stories / films, vignettes about people’s lives, like Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, ‘Home’ by Morag McKinnon and the films of Shane Meadows and Miranda July. Sophie Calle has also been a big inspiration; she’s a very unique storyteller.
Authenticity is very important to me and I’m drawn to anything / anyone with a sense of history or a story, however simple to tell.
AP: How do you find your projects?
KP: Serendipity I guess. I have my themes and fascinations and I’ll generally work around these, but often one thing leads to another and the project finds me. It’s impossible to force things, my heart has to be in it 100% for it to succeed.
AP: You seem to have a greater interest in issues relating to women and the female sexuality - is that true? What makes the topic so fascinating for you?
KP: At this point in time it seems that way! I think it’s because there are so many layers to it and I don’t fully understand my own views on certain aspects in terms of women and the sex industry. It’s so conflicting and contradictory I don’t think I will ever fully resolve my thoughts on it, so it will remain a fascination.
Plus being a woman working with other women, it’s easier to relate. You can get different access and approach things in a way a man wouldn’t. I’m not saying it’s better, just different, and it can work both ways. It’s also not what all my work is about by any means.
My interests are far-reaching and concerned with a number of ideas relating to the human condition / human existence and how we exist, inhabit and influence the world around us.
AP: Your body of work entitled ‘Dominatrix’ looks at the world of professional Dominatrix in the UK. How did you get your subjects to collaborate with you?
KP: This body of work is typical of a subject finding me; I was researching a different, still unrealised series and attended a club night where I met a professional Dominatrix. I started looking into this hidden world. I had no idea the extent of the industry in the UK, it’s quite a big scene and I was fascinated by the relationships between the participants. Psychologically it is very complex.
I was also at a stage where I hadn’t really explored portraiture in my work so this seemed like an ideal starting point. After looking at a lot of ‘interesting’ websites and sending out a lot of emails explaining the project, things started to happen. Once you have something to show the process becomes a lot easier and people recommend colleagues etc, so after a slow start it became more and more feasible.
My main problem has been with people dropping out after things have been shot. Some women whose circumstances change no longer want a record of themselves in that guise anymore and I have to respect that, however disappointing it is to lose a favourite image.
AP: And finally - what is next? Can we look forward to more projects about exploring issues about femininity?
KP: Yes, in fact you can! My most recent series, still very much a work in progress, is looking at women working as Web Cam Girls.
It’s a collaboration between myself and the women who make a living ‘performing’ via the internet for paying viewers, selling fantasies to men all over the world from the comfort of their bedrooms. Working with the independent cam girls I’m working on a series using Skype as a means of directing them via web cam and rephotographing the images from the screen. With art historical references in contemporary settings shot using modern technology, the images are surreal representations of women and the online sex industry. It’s in the early stages at the moment but I’m very excited to see where it leads.
For more information about INSTITUTE for Artist Management please visit http://www.instituteartist.com/
February sees photographer Kate Peters exhibiting images from her series Yes, Mistress on the stairs at Labyrinth Photographic.
Exploring female sexuality and contemporary representations of women in much of her work, Yes, Mistress is an ongoing series by Labyrinth client Kate Peters, looking at the world of the professional dominatrix.
Interested in the performance and psychological aspects of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) the work combines portraits with the theatre like sets of the dungeons and the ‘slaves’ belonging to the mistresses.
The images are fragments of a story revealing a side of life in the UK not often seen.
Kate Peters, born Coventry, England in 1980 gained a BA (Hons) in Photography at Falmouth College of Arts, Cornwall in 2002 before moving to London where she is currently based.
Her work has been exhibited worldwide and can regularly be seen in publications including Guardian Weekend, Monocle, Newsweek, Time and The Telegraph Magazine.
Kate is represented by INSTITUTE.
All images © Kate Peters / INSTITUTE
In 2012 Jennifer Pattison was awarded second place in the prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery. Last year’s judging panel included photographer Emma Hardy, who we have invited to interview Jennifer for The Stare Show.
Emma Hardy: Your portraits imply a quiet trust between you and your subjects, is this because they are friends or is this a result of the way you work?
Jennifer Pattison: The relationship between myself and the people I photograph varies, ranging from friends, friends of friends to strangers. I don’t like having my picture taken so I work really hard to make the people I photograph feel comfortable. My aim is to set up a moment where they feel they can reveal something of themselves to me, I suppose in this sense my subjects need to trust me. I can’t say my approach is systematic, it’s intuitive and the subject often sets the tone to how I photograph them. Whether I’m photographing a friend or someone I don’t know it’s essential to the success of the picture to establish trust, to have a connection.
My way of connecting to people is by talking to them about how they feel having their picture taken. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this, they have reasons why they do or don’t like having their picture taken; it’s a pretty good conversation starter and presents a chance for me to get a glimpse of their personality. I’m very interested in finding out what the experience is like on the other side of the lens. I’ve found I tend to recount a brief history of my recent photographic escapades, the good and the bad. I chat about the project I’m working on and what my motivation is. Sadly not every shoot allows for this type of preamble however in the most part I walk away with a sense that there has been a mutual exchange. Ideally I end up with a result that I’m happy with and I hope they are left with something equally positive.
EH: Your nude portraits and their accompanying landscapes, did you shoot them specifically alongside each other, or did you discover symbiotic coincidences during the editing process or from previous already existing work?
JP: It wasn’t until I began editing the pictures and arranging them in book format that I noticed something was missing. I had ended up with a deluge of skin; placing naked portrait after naked portrait didn’t seem to allow any time to really look at the women, I wanted to slow the process of looking down.
Whilst I was taking the pictures I had many thoughts about what the sitters were thinking. I felt when I was taking the pictures that the sitters had moments where they seemed to be elsewhere. They stopped talking and there was silence, even only for a minute. I’ve struggled to describe this with words; I recently listened to a Radio Four book of the week, The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz although he is writing about his experience as a psychoanalyst he describes these moments. He talks about listening not just to words but the gaps in between. I began thinking about extending the portraits and illustrating the silences - the gaps in between, thinking more about the sitters experiences whilst sat naked, wondering where their thoughts had drifted to.
At the same time as taking the naked portraits I was making regular trips to solitary places in Suffolk and Scotland photographing the landscape, it made perfect sense that the landscapes could illustrate this.
EH: If you could experience being a photographer or an artist in any medium whose work you admire, for a day, and take that experience into your own work, who would you choose and why?
JP: I would choose Victorian photographer Julian Margaret Cameron who at the age of 48 was given a camera, she turned her coalhouse into a dark room and her glass chicken coup into a studio and set about creating her artful photographs. I’ve always been struck by the arresting quality of her portraits and admired her unconventional approach, often accused of having slipshod techniques; Cameron used an out of focus effect, sometimes deliberately printing from cracked negatives and leaving chemical smudges on her photographs. Her subjects were close friends and her portraits were taken using daylight with long exposures, sometimes up to seven minutes.
She was working in an era when achieving a good result was laborious, she used the complicated wet plate process. Having recently read about Cameron in Illuminations: Women writing on Photography from the 1850’s to the Present; I get the impression that although she did manipulate some of her images she embraced the imperfections. These days there is no reason for photographers to keep any flaws in their images, modern technology allows us to render them invisible but sometimes these imperfections can be the most interesting or beautiful.
EH: Do you find yourself drawn to particular subjects; is there a common thread you can identify?
JP: I often notice people looking to see who is looking at them, we all do subconsciously. With regards to my series In Sight of My Skin there is a common thread or a type of subject that I have been drawn to. The subjects I have been choosing to photograph have a particular quality, strong women who are not hung up about their bodies or overly self conscious about how they look. I’m not saying they don’t feel uncomfortable taking their clothes off in front of me but it does not paralyse them in such a way that they cannot be themselves in front of the camera. I think this is a rare characteristic, a lot of us don’t have this and it’s a vital ingredient to the success of these portraits.
All images © Jennifer Pattison
For more information about Emma Hardy’s work please visit http://www.emmahardy.com/
For the rest of this month and the whole of January we’re delighted to be showing images from Jennifer Pattison’s series, ‘In Sight of my Skin’ on the stairs at Labyrinth Photographic.
Jennifer Pattison’s portraits are arresting and full of unselfconscious expression. Having begun her career as a photographer’s agent and producer, Jennifer has spent the last two years focusing on her own work and recently won second prize at the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012. Her entry Lynne, Brighton is part of an ongoing project In sight of my skin, a series of dreamlike landscapes and portraits which strive to capture the brief moments when her subjects become less aware of their naked body.
Sandy Nairn, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, talking about Jennifer’s award-winning portrait said: “The nakedness is so incidental - you’re simply drawn to her expression and her character.”
Jennifer lives and works in East London.
Since October 2010 Clare Hewitt has been assisting photographer Léonie Hampton and her husband, filmmaker Martin Hampton, on a variety of projects including Léonie’s first book In the Shadow of Things, which was published in 2011.
We invited Martin and Léonie to interview Clare as part of The Stare Show.
Léonie and Martin Hampton: It seems you have made great progress in a short space of time. How did you find the workshop ‘form’ helpful?
Clare Hewitt: Thank you. The International Summer School of Photography is held every summer for one week in Latvia. It includes 72 participants who are selected from around the world to take part in one of the six workshops run by a variety of photographic masters. The work produced by each participant is then exhibited at the end of the week in Kuldiga, where the workshop is based, and later in Riga.
When I applied for Hellen van Meene’s workshop I knew that if I was selected I would be asked to make a body of work within a few days, in an unfamiliar country and environment.
I find it challenging in London to allow myself the time to concentrate on fully realising one idea in this way. Recently I have tended to work on long term projects that I can make a bit at a time and think about throughout that period.
I really wanted to challenge myself to just make photographs without over analysing and criticising, and to be more instinctive about my process.
The format of the workshop allowed the opportunity and freedom to do this, but with the pressure of knowing we would be exhibiting the work at the end of the week. It was such a compelling environment, and everybody that I met in Latvia, including all the participants, the masters and the ISSP staff, were incredibly supportive.
Léonie’s always encouraged me to act on any idea I have photographically whether it works or not, but I’ve struggled to do this in the past. I feel like my experience at ISSP shifted something in my thought process, which has since allowed me to do this more freely and with fewer inhibitions.
MH: I often find portraiture leaves me a bit disappointed, like finding myself in a dead end while exploring a new place. Looking at these images I feel I am looking at unfinished stories. Why do you think not seeing your subjects’ eyes makes the portraits so open ended?
CH: One of the reasons I enjoyed making this series was because I found that when your subject can’t see you, it’s possible to look at and focus on them completely differently. I wasn’t concerned that my gaze was affecting their behaviour.
Their awareness of the camera and I still existed, but there often came a point where they completely relaxed, sometimes they even began to fall asleep. All of a sudden they weren’t necessarily the subjects of photographs anymore, they were present but somewhere else too.
This probably affects the narrative that the viewer attaches to the portrait, and how much they think they can know about the person they’re looking at, making interpretations more open ended.
I think one of the most beautiful examples of this is Peter Hujar’s image of Edwin Denby (Edwin Denby, 1975). It has an incredible stillness and serenity, yet it is emotionally intricate and intense. (http://www.matthewmarks.com/new-york/artists/peter-hujar/selected-works/#/images/4/)
LH & MH: It feels like there is a lot of time contained in each single image. How do you work with your subjects? Do you take your time?
CH: I remember reading an interview between Charlotte Cotton and Dan Holdsworth, in which Cotton commented on the ‘layers of time or history that are embedded in a place,’ in relation to Holdsworth’s work. Although they were considering landscapes, this concept has always stayed with me particularly when thinking about portraiture, and how a person carries their past with and on them. It’s in our posture.
Because I spent time with the people in these portraits, I found myself trying to observe this aspect of them before sittings, and then making each portrait quite quickly, within maybe twenty minutes to half an hour depending on the light. Shooting on film also inherently slows down the process.
But this idea of taking my time is something I’ve been experimenting with in a project I started this year called ‘Hours’, in which I ask subjects to sit for a specific amount of time and under a variety of conditions.
The first portrait I produced in this way was of Tim Andrews, who has Parkinson’s Disease (http://timandrewsoverthehill.blogspot.co.uk/). Tim sat for five hours in a relatively confined space. I’m keen to observe the changing behaviour of the sitter over a prolonged period of time. I’m also interested in the relationship between my sitter and I, if this changes during the sitting, and how that is represented in the images.
LH & MH: How important are your subjects personal stories? Are you trying to represent them in some way in your images or do you intend for your photographs to stand apart from them in some way?
CH: I think these portraits are about the impression that I had of my subjects characters before I photographed them, without knowing too much about them, and then my attempt to depict this through their posture, form and the light available. They’re therefore an interpretation of their personal stories, which are very much linked to the photographs.
But I also feel there is a large reflection of myself in the images, that they’re as intentionally self-exploratory as they are representative of others. This isn’t something that I’ve experimented with too much before.
Usually I would select my subjects based on their personal stories, so often this is integral to the photograph.
For example, I’ve been working throughout the last year with a woman called Eugenie who I met through the Haringey Phoenix Group, a charity for blind and visually impaired people. Eugenie was left severely visually impaired after suffering from a stroke in middle age.
She has had to teach herself to walk and talk again, and to restart her life in completely different circumstances to those that she had always known. I would like to teach her to make photographs, particularly of herself, and this is a project that I intend to work on with her for the foreseeable future.
LH & MH: What are your main influences? There is certainly something of Vermeer in the fall of the cool light and the stillness you capture.
CH: When I was studying photography I spent a lot of time looking at Vermeer and also Vilhelm Hammershoi. I was fascinated by the simplicity of their work, yet how complex it was at the same time.
Photographically I’m influenced and inspired by so many artists, but I find I always go back to the work of Jitka Hanzlova, Clare Richardson, August Sander, Shen Wei, Peter Hujar, David Birkin, Diane Arbus, Hannah Starkey, Alec Soth, Paul Graham and Josef Koudelka.
All images © Clare Hewitt.
For more information about the International Summer School of Photography please visit http://www.issp.lv/en/about
This month Labyrinth Photographic will be handing over their stairs to Clare Hewitt.
The photographs exhibited are part of a project in progress, which Clare began in Latvia during Hellen van Meene’s workshop at the International Summer School of Photography 2012.
They are a study of light and form, focusing on the notion of being both seen and unseen.
Clare Hewitt initially completed a degree in law before going on to study Commercial Photography at the Arts University College at Bournemouth.
She is currently based in London where she works as a photographer, curator, writer, and assistant to Léonie Hampton.
In June 2012, Tim Bowditch’s first book Leaf Peeper was published by Rokov Publishing, a creative platform centred around collaboration, founded by Nick Rochowski in 2011.
We invited Nick to interview Tim following his exhibition at Labyrinth Photographic.
Nick Rochowski: Recently you did a very interesting and in-depth interview with Guernsey Arts Commission (http://www.arts.gg/index.php/artist-spotlight-2-tim-bowditch/) about your work and current projects, we will steer clear of similar types of questions. So firstly how did you find the experience and process of creating your book Leaf Peeper, what did you learn and did it end up how you imagined it would?
Tim Bowditch: When I went to Japan in November last year I never intended to make a piece of work like Leaf Peeper. I was mainly focussed on cycling around and visiting velodromes to watch the Keirin. My housemate, who was out in Japan for three months, had booked me on three Imperial Villa visits prior to my arrival. I had already done two by this point and was slightly weary from walking around on my own at the back of a group of Japanese tourists whilst listening to the tedious ‘play by numbers’ American audio guide. I decided to remedy this by following this one tourist around for an hour and a half. I didn’t think about a piece of work or a book at the time but on return to London and receipt of the negatives I thought they were quite interesting as a sequence of images. I sent the photographs to friend and long term collaborator Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau as I thought he might appreciate the humour in the repetition.
I realised that the photographs would work best in book form but as a short story book opposed to a photo book. I asked Matt if he would like to write a short fiction and without instructions he came back with the story as is.
I knew that I wanted the images and story to work together and not be seen as two separate parts and that they should both have the same ‘weight’ in the book. Matt and I sat down together and did numerous mock layouts before deciding that there should be a simple motif throughout the book of image, text, image text repeated. The story needed to run parallel to the images but looked cluttered on the same page. I wanted the size of the book to remain small but for the images to come across the bleed to maximise space, so the solution was to run both the images and text across the bleed. The text blocks took up the same amount of space as the images and flowed well.
The process from receiving the story to deciding to produce a book and starting to design layout moved relatively quickly. I really enjoyed the specifics of choosing paper stock and type face but everything takes a lot of time and there was a huge amount of back and fourth with the printers testing out different stocks and binds. I learnt how long the refining process takes to tweak it to get it just right.
The book developed exactly as I imagined it to but this was down to closely following the process the whole way. I am most happy with the print quality, which is obviously key when producing photography books.
NR: Is a book something you have always wanted to make and in doing so has it changed your understanding, appreciation and outlook on photobooks?
TB: I have never really had a body of work that fits naturally in to a book format. I think that there is a danger with the fact that it is relatively easy to self publish at the moment. I fear there is a culture of pushing a body of work into a book for the sake of it, because you can.
For me Leaf Peeper works best in book format as a short story. The images need to be displayed on mass alongside the story to emphasise the repetition of the act and this could easily be lost in any other presentation of the work. This is contained within the book and turns the work into a short fiction rather than a documentary photo essay or site specific installation. It now has a limited reading, which is important. Even when it is shown online or in fact in the case of The Stare Show I try and make sure all of the images are shown in sequence to try and keep this prescribed reading.
It has made me more aware of all the seemingly insignificant but actually important small decisions that need to be made when producing work for a book format. Sequencing is incredibly important and this is something that I will carry forward into my next planned book.
NR: Leaf Peeper has a documentary feel to it, but at the same time I feel it’s going on a whim and isn’t so concerned with trying to tell a story as such. Your action was instinctive but the aesthetic is also very controlled. Would you agree and also how do you think your artistic motivations influence what and how you shoot?
TB: I totally agree, with all of the work I made in Japan I was never really concerned with trying to tell any stories as such. They were all in fact shot on whims based on single documentary style observations, which are all initially exaggerated through repetition of a controlled aesthetic and sometimes further exaggerated through text.
My project Big Dream had the potential to be a more in depth documentary photo essay telling the story of guys gambling on Keirin track cycle racing. However I try to resist what I see as a standard formula to documentary photography, which seems to be currently fashionable. Projects whereby the scene is set, life is captured, details are captured, portraits are captured, all boxes are ticked. I was interested in the Keirin firstly as a spectator of the sport but I soon noticed the gamblers, in isolation, scattered around both open and secluded parts of the complexes. In a similar way to Leaf Peeper, I set out to record them in a more typological way that Stephen Gill achieved so well in his work. I did however veer from such a regimented route and went further towards the documentary formula previously mentioned than I would’ve liked. I think what happened in this instance is that I worried that one set aesthetic or one repeated motif might not capture the story.
I try not to get distracted by events but stick to my self motivated plan and repeat the formula. This way of working was also in place for Air France which was another project made in the same trip and further abstracted with another short fiction by Matt which uses a similar way of story telling as in Leaf Peeper. The images, repetitive in nature and aesthetic act as the nature vessel to carry and illustrate the story.
NR: The text offers a running, dream-like, commentary to the work. How does a collaboration like this come about and then evolve through the project?
TB: The collaboration needs to work as a natural combination from the outset. I approached Matt because I have worked with him before, we have a trusted working relationship and I also thought the photographs might be to his humour. The images, as previously discussed, are whimsical but quite one dimensional in the way they literally depict this tourists journey around an Imperial Villa. Taking photographs of people/tourist taking photographs is well trodden ground and therefore Matt was invited to react to the work without any other parameters to take it in a needed new direction. The short fiction adds an intrinsic layer to the project.
The collaboration evolved from the simple ‘here are the images, please produce a story’ through the way Matt chose to both simultaneously acknowledge and ignore the character as it were. The images in this case are merely a base, a foundation to hang a story on. The formula is set, the man does not move from the centre of the frame and you can quite comfortably predict what the next turn of the page will reveal. The images can therefore wash over you as you are taken away in the dream.
NR: Have you given any thought for what the man in the pictures might think or do if he saw the book? I imagine it could be quite odd, receiving a book of photos of myself completely unaware of the fact!
TB: It is not something I don’t really think or worry about but is a question I am constantly asked about this project. It was an observation born out of the fact that I didn’t really want to be on another tour of another Imperial Villa. I used him as a distraction to get around the tour and he initially became apparent to me immediately due to his dress, the way he held his camera and the way he hastily moved on to his next subject. It became a game where I would try and freeze him before he quickly moved on. At no point did he or would he have seen been aware of my specific gaze as I was camouflaged by the other 20 ‘armed’ tourists, who for all I know could’ve have been doing the same thing within the group.
As he was so pre occupied with documenting the villa I became pre occupied documenting him. I did not feel that I wanted to have the same experience as everyone else on the tour so took from it what I needed and wanted to.
I would imagine it certainly would be bizarre for him to see a collection of photographs of himself especially with his activity further highlighted and at once removed in the context of the story. However our images are taken and logged daily, perhaps taken out of context and reproduced without our control. It would of course be an interesting conversation if he did ever get in touch and one I am not sure how I would deal with.
NR: Like Leaf Peeper, your other projects are collaborative and often with other disciplines. Where do you feel that you want to next push your photography, are the themes within Leaf Peeper something you wish to explore more or is it on to the next chapter?
TB: I think that specific documentary led observations will generally be the catalyst for my future projects and then further abstracting ideas through collaboration with writers, sound recordists and other artists. I am planning on working on more moving image work, which will again have documentary roots in the first instance. I am also beginning work on a new publication, which will take an existing body of work and see a collaboration with an artist to produce new incarnation of the work entirely.
All images © Tim Bowditch
For more information about Rokov Publishing please visit http://rokovpublishing.com/
October 2012 sees Tim Bowditch taking over the stairs at Labyrinth Photographic with images from his recently published book, Leaf Peeper.
“Momijigari” is the Japanese tradition of visiting scenic places in autumn to see the leaves of the trees as they turn red. Tim Bowditch went to the Imperial villa in Kyoto last year and documented an anonymous Japanese man as he photographed endless pictures of the darkening leaves.
The resulting work was published as ‘Leaf Peeper’ in book form by Rokov Publishing in June 2012, and includes a text by Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau that responds to Bowditch’s photos with a story of insight, ignorance and blocked sinuses.
Tim Bowditch is a photographer and film maker. His recent work includes Firedive (2011), a film about the tidal swimming pools of Guernsey; Afghanistan Blueys (2011), a collaborative project with his brother who is a bandsman in the Royal Marines; and Hindland (2012), a series of large scale photographs of the hidden architecture beneath the M25, made in collaboration with Nick Rochowski.