Ben Kelly

UniversityFalmouth University

Graduation: 2015

Genre: Landscape, Architectural, Editorial, Social Documentary

Websitewww.ben-kelly.net

Artist StatementUtopia is my representation of the ideal landscape. It is man, architecture, nature and light coming together to create moments of what I perceive to be the perfect form of what is presented in front of me. My photographic interest lies mainly in the residential and public spaces we inhabit on a daily basis and how we are complacent and passive to the order of the landscape. The banal spaces we are presented with hold aspects of a utopian environment and it is these distinct compositions that interest me. But due to the build of public spaces, the utopian environment I am portraying is not a fully immersive experience in the real world and I believe it cannot ever exist as a single location. Utopia is created in a puzzle like manner and it is not bound by its original geography.

 From the series  Utopia

From the series Utopia

What are some standout moments from your time at university? I have lots of great memories that I have Falmouth to thank for and it’s tough to pick some standouts. I made some lasting friendships and surfed a lot when I should have been working. But being university specific I had some great portfolio reviews at our Free Range exhibition. They are a big influence on the work I make today. I also valued discussing my peers’ work, and mine. That may not be a standout memory but it was certainly a valuable aspect of my time at Falmouth.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Personally I find it hard to define where it is my work belongs, but subjectively it’s a mixture of landscape, architectural, editorial and social documentary. I take photos almost every day and consciously never feel I have to create work to fit a certain genre.

 Images f rom the series   Utopia

Images from the series Utopia

What themes do you find yourself exploring? The idea of perfection and my idealistic view of the landscape that’s explored in Utopia is really a recurring theme. Another project of mine, Idios, is highly similar in concept but is visually very different. I like to study certain environments and how architecture and nature interact with the landscape and myself. I love beautiful looking things and that’s what I photograph.

What's your idea of a perfect place? Does this ideal location exist to you? To be honest I wouldn’t quite know where to begin, having a varied taste in architecture, design and nature. With Utopia I took the exciting parts of my immediate surroundings and these become the perfect environment in reflection. They are small fragments of a large area and they standalone from the original location. The ideal location exists through my representation but I couldn’t say it exists in real life.

  From the series   Utopia

From the series Utopia

What drew you to this particular location to make this work? Is the location important? The location was my immediate surroundings and Utopia wasn’t a specifically planned project. I had a slight theme in my head after working on Idios prior to flying out there but everything that followed was quite spontaneous. It was when I developed the film, almost a year after the trip, that the project fell together.

Do the weather conditions and lighting play a part in this series? The weather and constant sunshine play a large role in the overall feel of the set of images. I think it’s quite reflective of my feelings at the time too. Everything was idyllic, bright and happy so if the weather was grey and dull I don’t think the series would exist in the manner it does, or at all. 

 Images f rom the series   Utopia

Images from the series Utopia

What theoretical influences did you have when making this work? Jacques Tati is a large influence on my photographic work since being introduced to his films. I think the creation of his film set, dubbed Tativille, is magnificent and I think the idea of a construction of reality and control over representation fed into my work. I also came across Idios kosmos, meaning private world in Greek. It is the idea of a world created through personal experiences that, in turn, makes it unique. Much how my representation of utopia would maybe differ with the viewers’ if they were stood in the actual location.

Did this body of work take form in the final stages of the edit? Or did you always have a vision in mind of what you wanted the final outcome to look like? The outcome of the work was created via the final edit but there is was a conscious decision to photograph in a coherent manner that would create a series before me. I have found each roll of film I shoot follows a trend of subjects or style. So while the final edit has solidified the project, it was consciously created before hand.

  From the series   Utopia

From the series Utopia

As this is your utopia, have you deliberately excluded people or was this an aesthetic choice as you made the work? It was definitely deliberate as I rarely photograph people. I found certain occasions where people fitted with the landscape and the light available and I have photographed those, but I think people would ground the project and geographical location too much. Where people are included they are fairly nondescript and blend with their surroundings without becoming a central focal point for the image.

Do you think that developing the film later on helped promote a sense of utopia in your mind as they are nostalgic for you? I think that could be true, as so much has changed since Utopia was photographed, but even if I were to have instantly developed the film or shot digitally the landscapes and compositions would still be a utopian environment. The time in between shooting and developing has likely led me to reflect on the photographs positively and, in turn, influenced the desire to present a utopia personal to me.