Sam Neal

University: University of Huddersfield

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Suburban Landscape, Landscape, Construction

Website: www.samnealphotography.com

Artist Statement:

64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W marks the location of an intensified experience, a place I had escaped to, where I felt most alive. The geographical location has become a container for this memory. I am now carrying this memory, using post-industrial and urban spaces that are the backdrop to our everyday lives. The journey of carrying the large material and frames to these forgotten, banal spaces is a reminder that at some point I was in that moment, it now acts as a portal. Correlations with the spaces and the sublime experiences began to grow, gradually becoming its own photograph, a representation of a portal within itself, creating tension in the golden light-kissed spaces, the landscape and the memory. It is a reminder that the everyday banal spaces I used to pass and turn my head away from, are in fact a beautiful fragment of the sublime landscape I once experienced. 

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

What are some standout moments from your time at university? In my final year the course improved massively, I think the freedom of creating your own journey was a big part of that. Being able to loan out any equipment you need for a shoot or if you just want to try it out was always beneficial throughout all years. My placement year in Canada using the mountain as my workspace each day was probably the standout moment though.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I got asked this the other day and I still don't know the answer. In my project work it is suburban/urban/landscape/constructed. In my other work it’s Sports.

Images from the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

Images from the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I like taking fragments of light and spaces to represent a memory or place. I tend to photograph the banal spaces that are the background to our everyday lives, and then taking something beautiful from that. Using medium format film is a real key to building this relationship with place. 

Can you tell us about some photographers who visually influence your work? Alec Soth; the relationship he has with a subject is undeniable. I like to think I have this with the spaces I choose to photograph. Also Noémie Goudals work has been very influential over the last year. 

What are you hoping to achieve in the future? I have just relocated to Canada and I am in the starting phase of a project based in British Columbia. My plans after here are unknown, but I hope to be on the move discovering new places. I've taken an interest in geography and climate change in the recent months so maybe I will take a path in that direction.

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

What do you enjoy most about photographing your everyday? Noticing things that others may not, or that are reminiscent to memory, whether that be light catching on something, or a space that is usually forgotten.

Did you always have a personal connection to the spaces you photographed for 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W? Sometimes I'd set up my medium format camera, read the light and wait for the perfect moment that only shows for a few minutes in the day, sometimes it never showed and sometimes the frame I'd created didn't feel quite right so I'd leave and wait for a place that did. The connection with the spaces began when the right light and the correlations with the hanging canvas material began to grow.

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

Some of your images contain the material and frame, showing your intensified experience, but some of them don't, why is that? The journey of carrying the large material to these forgotten, banal spaces was a reminder that at some point I was in that moment. They were printed at a large scale so I and the viewer could mentally step into it. As the project developed, I realised that the spaces I was photographing in were gradually becoming a representation of a portal within itself creating tension between light, landscape and memory. Using the project as a journey, the photographs became reminiscent of memory without the need for the large idealised landscape. It was the way light kissed the ground or the line in a fence that signified escapism, this is what really let the project flow.

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

From the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

Would you say that the landscape in which you discovered you felt most alive is your ideal landscape? Yes it is, as much as I found these usually forgotten banal spaces in the urban environment somewhat beautiful, I will always find myself most alive in the seemingly endless landscape. There's something encapsulating about listening to nature, going to places that are untouched and looking out into the blue horizon where the sky and land seem to disappear. 

Images from the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

Images from the series 64° 2’ N 16° 12’ W

What do you hope for your viewer to gain from your images? All the viewer has to do is just look around and visualise the potential of a space, then anything can be beautiful. 

Were there any theoretical influences that stood out to you when making this series? There is so many theorists that over the years have added to the final execution of taking a photographic series. Liz Wells, Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes I always came across in my research. Once I progressed this series, I began exploring a range of mediums; authors that had a major impact on my work such as Rebecca Solnit A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and Pico Iyer The Art of Stillness and then video, in particular Wim Wenders Paris, Texas. The idea that one person can look out into the wild landscape and see nothing whereas another person sees everything; I would like to think is a clear reflection of my experience and practice.