University: London College of Communication
Artist Statement: Over the course of this year, From the trees we run between has become a study of the notion of origin, the cyclical nature of devotion, and the anonymity of craft. Traditions of construction draw together dwellings, sites and objects of worship to open up a circumnavigation surpassing landscape as visual construct and returning to land as a graspable object. Mainly arising out of various mythologies of the forest, this body of work oscillates between the boundaries of the found and made; multiple narrative strands are collated into a story of endurance. Layers of imagery are eroded, gathered, and compressed again by the force of interwoven histories; a built land gradually reveals its marks of engagement and possession.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? The two months I spent in the darkrooms towards the end of my final project, just showing up to print everyday with some of my closest friends, were some of my favourite moments.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Much of my practice is based on an assembling and interweaving of disparate histories. Although rooted in the landscape, I would call my final project in particular a poetic study. I also saw the photographer Paul Graham speak in Berlin recently, and he described a genre as elliptical documentary, spiralling closer to a centre of interest by way of details that can initially seem irrelevant.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? The transformation of materials, and the idea of a collective memory that can establish a sense of unity and continuity across spaces and times.
What are the biggest influences on your work? I always seem to base the beginnings of projects on the recreation of very specific memories, whether they are my own or not. Over the course of my degree I kept returning to writers like Laszlo Krasznahorkai, W.G. Sebald and John Steinbeck. Lately I've been looking at the work of Raymond Meeks and Herman de Vries, and a beautiful publication called Lamo Lava by Melanie Matthieu.
What prompted you to shoot this work in black and white? I was shooting colour film alongside black and white throughout most of this series, and had used colour images in a work-in-progress display in the middle of the year. Ultimately, however, as the idea of mark-making is central to the work, and black and white retained a more visceral sense of drawing, of a line being made. Charcoal has a strong presence throughout the work, and it was important for me to be making the prints myself. Much of my initial visual inspiration came from old textbooks and manuals, in particular their grainy black and white reproductions of illustrations.
You included an assortment of items at your degree show exhibition; can you tell us more about what you exhibited and what informed your decision to hang in this style? I am interested in the point where an object becomes a representation of itself, turns into its own archetype. I did not want the objects to be shown on plinths as they traditionally might have been, but I treated them as images in their own right. The interaction between the objects, frames, and sometimes the photographs of the objects, echoe my concerns with the shifting of matter and its transformation over time.
How did you decide what to include in the final edit? As I shot over the entire year, there was a constant accumulating of and working through material. The strong images emerged fairly easily out of what I had gathered. A couple of the final pictures are from the very first of the hundred or so rolls that I ended up shooting. When it came to the selection for the display, I remember it all just pulling together quite naturally over the course of a few weeks. Printing the work by hand also helped me to see better what would go together in which size.
How do you plan on developing this work? I have just moved to Berlin, and I'm in the early stages of a next project that kind of follows on from this one; dealing with traditions of burial and the materiality of the human body in relation to soil. I am also thinking about the ways in which my degree show piece could be re-worked and shown again. As I said, I shot a fair amount of colour film while making it that I never included in my final piece at the time, so I would just like to spend time looking through and working with them. Ultimately I would really like to show it again in a larger space in the near future. As part of an award I received for my degree show project, I am also about to return to London to print an edition to be sold to Flowers Gallery in London.
You've mentioned that some of your final images for this series were in fact taken on the first roll of film you used; why do you think your first images worked better than the later ones? I don't necessarily think the first ones worked better as a rule, but at the start of a project I'm usually shooting with a less clear idea than a few months down the line, and sometimes that more open approach leads to images that end up fitting well with the more developed work later on. In a way you always have to try and strike a balance between working towards your concept and allowing it to be expanded by the things you might come across by chance.
How did you find locations that resonated with the idea of mythologies of the forest? I deliberately wanted to include a mixture of places familiar and previously unfamiliar to me, and so have included locations of both personal and wider cultural relevance. I've always tried to intertwine closer and more distant relations in the sequences of images I assemble, and also thought of the forest also as an almost structural device where the viewer would have to navigate their way through a dense overlap of timescales and places.
Why did you decide to hand print this work? And what do you like about working in the darkroom? As I previously said, the concept of mark-making and drawing is integral to the work. I love the sense of drawing the image out of the paper itself, and getting to spend that time with the images often proves very useful for getting a better idea of what size the image needs to be in the context of the display.
What advice would you give others interested in making their own darkroom prints? Practice as much as you can and be patient with it - once you get into the routine, it's such an amazing way to engage with your images and keep discovering new ways of working with them.
You've mentioned that you're currently developing new work; can you tell us more about it and what you're hoping to achieve with it? I'm still very much in the research phase, but I'm again following several different narratives that I'm hoping to pull together into a final sequence or piece. I started with a Jewish legend, and I'm now looking into a wide range of subjects, from a meteorite impact to burial grounds to healing treatments.
How have you found graduate life thus far? I have enjoyed taking some time off from physically making images and prints, and have only been reading, going through my notebooks, and applying to a few awards. I do miss the pace of working at university, especially over the last year, but it will be nice to settle into a new rhythm, especially as I've just moved to a new city and I'm interested to see how that will change my work in general.
What are your future photographic or creative plans? I am about to start an internship at an Art Sales website for the next three months, and I'm looking into travel plans for shooting some of my current project next year. At some point, I would also like to curate a show in Berlin with a few of my classmates from LCC.