University: Newport University
Artist Statement: Hello, my names Harry. I’m a photographer, editor of a self-published magazine and work for the oldest photography magazine in the world. I’m passionate about story telling from books, photographs, movies and music.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I graduated from Newport University in South Wales, from their now non-existent Photographic Art course (and university). I think now you’d call it University of South Wales, but I like to remember my roots and Newport University will always hold a fond place in my heart.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I think realising what it was I wanted to do with my life/career. Working in the photography industry ideally for a magazine or publishing house. There was one time I spent 48 hours scanning and editing a project and having to hide under tables so the university security didn’t see me. B11 in Caerleon Campus was the place to be.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? All of my projects are different from tone and approach. I worked on a project about the landscape where my Father’s ashes lay and the idea of permanence, memory and loss. Which in a way triggered my current project on researching into Bigfoot in the UK and the visual culture it has created. It’s felt like a natural departure from something that was so personal to associate my practice as being able to work on something completely different. I guess you’d call my work documentary photography.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I think the things photography isn’t good at I try to explore the most. It is a limited tool, which is why you find people turning to pairing images with writing, collaborating with other artists from various mediums and backgrounds and incorporating a whole mass of different avenues into the work to try and convey more than just a visual stimulus but something that digs a little deeper into the human psyche.
Making work I want to see is usually a starting point, or investigating something I think is different. Which will explain my project on Bigfoot, how do you go about doing an image led project about something that might not even exist? I like a challenge and try to avoid anything pedestrian.
Tell us a little bit about Darwin Magazine. What encouraged you to put this together? I wanted to get into a role of being an editor and working on a magazine mainly because I love stories. I love putting other stories together. We’ve had 7 volumes come out so far, and I look at each one as a shelf on a bookshelf, what stories and books do you have sat next to one another. Also because it looked like fun. Ryan (co-founder) and myself are looking forward to the re launch later this year, we took a natural break whilst we focused on other things. It will be bigger than the Spice Girls reunion.
Your work has been seen in a number of exhibitions and publications. How do you get your work noticed? I’m not that confident in my own work. I know I don’t fit an aesthetic or produce work people really give a rat’s arse about. So, the fact anyone has featured my work is a little beyond my understanding as to why they have. Maybe you could tell me?
But if I’m going to give any advice, I’d say only submit and apply to stuff where you're happy to see your work published/exhibited. Don’t throw everything at the wall hoping something lands. Be selective and be consistent in that process.
Your series Looking for Bigfoot isn't yet complete. How are you working on extending it? The Bigfoot project is something I don’t want to end, but I’ve got a vision on how I see the work progressing. I want to create the photographic equivalent of a cabinet in the X-Files. Photographs and bodies of work in folders, exploring unexplained tales and myths/folklore within the UK. Currently I’m finishing off interviews with people who’ve seen Bigfoot in the UK and speaking with a curator about how to make the work an experience rather than a project.
Can you tell us about some of the main influences for Looking for Bigfoot? I was brought up on monster movies, fantasy novels and science fiction. I’ve always had an interest in people and the creatures they claim to see going bump in the night. There’s a lot of stigma about witnesses of monsters, which from personal experience I can say is there, but why the humans feel the need to create things so fantastical rather than investing their time and passion into species we know exist and which need our support.
Plus, everyone loves a good ghost story at night, right?
What do you want for your viewer to learn from this work? To have fun. But to also question truth in the world, from a photograph to people’s intentions. There’s been a lot of scandals in regards to the truth and how its portrayed in photo journalism, and with Trumps attack on the truth on the press. I think it's time for monsters to come out of the closets to provide the fantastical relief they once did as folklore tales and bed time stories as well as back in the days of hammer horror.
Tell us how you’ve gone about collecting images for Looking for Bigfoot and editing them down to make each volume. To get the project started I spoke to individuals who had personal encounters with Bigfoot in the UK. There is an online database with sighting locations also. After countless interviews and working closely with those who are said ‘experts’ in the field of Bigfoot sightings, I began to document the locations revealed through my discussions with witnesses. I’m in the process of publishing online these accounts, it soon became clear that those who I had spoken to didn’t want their identities revealed via portraits or their names down on paper. Which in a way adds to how bizarre the project is – if those who are speaking the truth about an unclassified species won’t come forward, how does that help the reality they are embedded in?
I was also lucky to have access to a private archive, I discovered a relative of mine had photographed some landscapes where regular sightings happen, so they also became an important part of the project as they have a level of accountability to them.
I’ve received object from Bigfoot casts, to clumps of hair also. My postman brings me some of the weirdest things these days.
Editing wise I made sure the project looked as ambiguous as possible. There is no definite conclusion or answer to what people have claimed to see. And for me to try and force that through photography to me was extremely false. The journey is more important than any big reveal. So, I edited to that beat, as if you’re learning about the culture and myth as you go along.
What do you enjoy most about photography? I enjoy the escapism it allows and ability to tell a story without picking up a pen. Being engrossed in a project is sometimes the most enjoyable experience, anything outside of it becomes white noise, which is probably the ride I’ve had working on exploring the realm of Bigfoot will be a hard one to leave.