Now we can all take pictures, with varying degrees of consistency, more than ever before it's about what we do with photography.
Although there are far more people trying to ‘be photographers’ than there were in those heady days of 1980, there are also far more opportunities. Gone are the days, thankfully, when a commercial assignment, or even a picture in a newspaper, can damage the chance of gallery representation. Yet what is clear is that a number of ‘good pictures’ are no longer enough; today it has to be about ideas, and about the intent of the work.
Building a body of work can take a long time. It doesn’t have to, of course, but most of my projects – the ones that I feel have been successful – have all been made over several years, so there’s a degree of persistence involved.
Making a photographic project is multifaceted, of course. First of all, you have to get yourself out of the house, or your hotel, or wherever you are. You have to make that initial effort to do that. Then you have to go out and make those pictures, and then you have to bring them back and look at them, and make sense of them and think about what you’re going to do with them. Then, for me, it’s very important to make physical prints. Particularly in this day and age, when most of us are working digitally, it makes me slightly nervous to think that the thing only exists on a computer, and we all know how easy it is to lose those images. So to make physical objects... That’s never changed. I’ve always been very careful to make prints, and if I’m editing work, sequencing work, I’m always using prints to do it. I find myself a big space or the floor, and that’s how I work. I don’t move things around on the computer screen, I don’t have the kind of brain to be able to deal with that. I like to work with physical objects.
If you have something to say and, even better, you have an innovative way of saying it, then opportunities are out there. I sense that photography is concerning itself with real issues again. For some time much of photography seemed to be about itself, and while this was fine, and interesting in some cases, it’s not what photography is really good at. Understand this by familiarising yourself with the rich and wonderful history of our medium. Be proud of it – what it has and what it can achieve. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Be inspired. Try and copy, if you like (because no one can). Find a subject you care about. Something that moves you. Something which stirs your rawest emotions. And then have patience.
It never ceases to amaze me how you just stay still for two or three minutes, and nobody notices you anymore.
“For me, the craft of photography has always been very important. Perhaps never more so than now, in this Instagram generation, where most of us are taking pictures on our phones. You know, we may download them to our computers, we may just leave them on our phones. And the physical print, the end of the process, is the thing for me. I like to hold and look at a beautiful object, and it feels like it completes that circle. Otherwise, the work just feels unfinished to me. If it just exists in the ether, or if it just exists as a cheap work print, it’s not quite there yet. I need to finish the project I began.