Huw Alden Davies
University: Newport, University of Wales
Statement: Prince, my current publication explores the lines of documentary photography and illustrative story telling, using an arrangement of photographs and short texts to create a detailed portrait that forms a dramatic, and often humorous study of the man that is my father; a bi-product of a generation, and his slanted views of the world.
What university did you attend and when did you graduate? I first received a BA First Honours Degree in Photography at the West Wales School of Arts in 2006, then later studied a Masters Degree in Documentary Photography at Newport, University of Wales, graduating in 2011.
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? One of my favourite books of all time would be Clair Richardson’s Beyond the Forest; this is such a magical series that so beautifully captures the essence of a town and its people, almost untouched by the modern world. I am also a big fan of recent works by Jack Latham and Michal Iwanowski, whom again have a real knack for portraying this kind of beauty and narrative, with hidden depths, and a pictorial or cinematic quality.
Direction: While working professionally, I have spent much of the last decade making work largely focused on my home village, concerned with concepts such as sense of place and social and cultural identity. Although I have exhibited primarily within the confines of the gallery, I had imagined that I might one day publish all works, but until recently had not really decided how this was going to happen.
Much of my projects are long term with no determined end point, but Prince however started out with the very definite objective of being short sharp and straight to the point. Working with CCQ Magazine my intention was to create and distribute a photographic artwork that would reach a receptive audience through a new means, and beyond the white wall.
And although this was achieved quite successfully, somewhere in the making, it became quite obvious that a character as complex and enigmatic as my father was going to require a tad more attention in the form of a larger project (currently in progress), which in turn has now taken on a life of its own inspiring a whole new direction and output for future works.
Considerations: Although I was looking for new and innovating ways of reaching an audience, for Prince it was important to me that I produced a book that captured the essence and honesty of its subject, whilst also maintaining a form that echoed the ethos of its host and distributer.
I had initially considered a number of concepts, materials and graphic content, but It was never going to work if I made a book that worked against what CCQ was about. With both our interest in mind, I worked very closely with the team to achieve a finish that would work with their magazine, using materials that harmonized their style and dimension, while also maintaining an identity or look that worked for myself, and the Prince project.
With endless possibilities I questioned every format. It might even have been just as affective if I had produced a newspaper format (one of the ideas I had toyed with), which could have worked perfectly as a vehicle to present my fathers character, but then I had to question its longevity, as this was something that I wanted to preserve. However I felt the chosen format struck the right balance, while also allowing me to produce a larger number, as apposed to a hardback book.
Interior: Although I have always had, on some level an interest in poetry and philosophy, and the idea of creative writing, much like any other photographer or artist, I have constantly shied from the notion of writing for my own work. However, with Prince, this was never going to be an option, in fact, I welcomed the possibility.
I have always been aware of this candid, colloquial, and often humorous dialect that exists within my family. I would watch and listen carefully as a child, and it always amused me how people would react in the presence of my fathers company. As I got older I recognised that the dynamic and relationship between my parents was a little more special, something begging to be part of a sit-com. Therefore when I found myself creating this series, I decided that dialog had to be part and parcel.
However, aware that a photograph should speak for itself, the text was less a voice for the images and more a companion that created layers, like that of a song. Exploring styles and rhythm that could be synthesised visually, painting a bigger picture.
Inspiration: I have been inspired by a number of artists and photographers over the years including Hopper or Caravaggio, Meyerowitz or Lorca deCorcia et al. These opened my eyes to the possibilities of photography and helped me hone my craft.
However, I am inspired by a great number of things, especially music, and film. When I was a kid and the weather was bad outside, my mother would draw the curtains, turn the lights out, transforming the lounge into a cinema where we would sit and watch films together, sometimes one after another. This was a vision painted by Spielberg and Lucas, and later Burton and Gillium. Eventually I discovered Lynch, Kubrick, the Coens, and the list goes on and on.
But what has inspired me the most are the people I am surrounded by, which have often become subjects of my images. I have also been very lucky to be surrounded by inspiring artists, teachers and innovative thinkers here in Wales whom have always been very supportive of what I do.
As for writing, well, this is an unexpected development in terms of being part of my work, and definitely a way forward for me creatively. Pandora’s box has been torn open.
Advice and Future Goals: In my experience, each and every artist has their own unique approach, and far be it for me to claim to have all the answers. However, if only as a reminder to myself, I would say that making a book is bigger than one person, I have learned that it takes a team. Being creative and making the work is only part of the process, this is the first stage. If you are going to make a book that works on more than one level, then I would say work with others, share ideas, collaborate, and the possibilities are endless.
I learned that although it's difficult to let go of creative control it was highly beneficial to have more than one set of eyes in the editing and design process, it's difficult to see the whole picture when your so close the subject. There will always be people that know more than you do, and this knowledge is vital to the success of your project. Talk to other artists, go to events, build working relationships. You will need an editor/s, designer/s, printers, promoters, stockists etc.
In terms of publishing, you just have to make the decision that’s right for you. The publishing game has changed significantly due to costs and technological advances, today photographers are expected to do much of the groundwork and in many cases, contribute to the costs, and sometimes with very little gain. Personally, in this climate it made more sense to self publish, if I was going to be putting so much in then I wanted the control seat, so to speak, otherwise I imagine Prince might have become something else entirely.