Interviewed by Fleur Adderley
You are based in Berlin, how does this city influence your photographic practice?
It all began with shadows and the cinema of this city’s streets during the winter nights… When I first started taking pictures here, so often it was at night… So quiet. So still. Sunk and submerged in the shadows, whilst my eyes were looking for those points of light within the darkness of what looked like film locations.
During the first years I spent Berlin I met a lot of artists who worked in various different disciplines; painters, poets, and artists of so many different styles. I would arrange to go on photo walks with them in and around the area where they lived or worked. I enjoyed listening to the inspiration they created from, and the worlds of ideas that lit their minds. And all the while I was looking for scenes in these streets, to create a kind of frozen film scene in a single moment.
"And all the while I was looking for scenes in these streets, to create a kind of frozen film scene in a single moment."
What is it about portraiture you find so interesting?
I find it very difficult to take a picture without a human in the frame. There is something about the narratives found in faces, and also the masks that we wear in society, hiding the totality of ourselves from the external world. These masks that so many of us tend to wear, like the ancient actors of Greece, who would wear masks during their performances (‘Persona’ in Latin) so that the spectators could visually understand the different characters within the plays.
After some years shooting more conventional portraits, I was driven to break down the clarity and the sharpness of a digital photograph, in an attempt to push my pictures in the direction of paintings. This created two years of test shoots and experiments with anyone who came across my path, to try to find the right way in which to shoot. It was through these experiments that I kept coming across pictures that had a somewhat surreal, mysterious, or ethereal, energy to them.
"when I was out with a camera, I would no longer be focused on the past or the future, but instead on the present moment. It became a kind of open-eyed meditation to stay rooted in the here and now."
Which genre of photography did you first explore?
It was during the last two years living in London that I shared a house with two photographer friends (Nick Ballon and David Ryle). Nick and David would give me their old cameras and out of date film for me to shoot with. I was going through a personally difficult time, and when I was out with a camera, I would no longer be focused on the past or the future, but instead on the present moment. It became a kind of open-eyed meditation to stay rooted in the here and now. So, I began as a street photographer, before working in documentary photography.
Do you have a preference between your fashion editorial works and conceptual works?
Working more conceptually allows one complete and utter freedom of expression. One does not have to appease a client, but in its place one is completely free to shape a frame any which way one wants, which is hugely inspiring. It allowed me to create images that were more surreal and otherworldly. This year I went back to working with medium format film photography, and embarked on a number of shoots to find ways to try to bridge the more conceptual work with the fashion work. The most recent editorial that I shot finally found this bridge, which I am currently working on.
Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?
I was a ferocious watcher of films from a very early age, and grew up loving old film noir. Or gazing into the reproductions of Edward Hopper paintings (Hopper, who would go on cinema binges in New York, before heading back to his studio to create his own works inspired by that medium which would, in turn, inspire films).
I also think back to seeing the works Caravaggio, which gripped my eyes and mind with his seemingly modernist tableaux and depictions that he painted. Again, so cinematic in their compositions and feeling, with an intensity of his scenes smouldering within the shadows.
Outside of cinema and art history as sources of inspiration, there are a number of photographers who fired my mind over the years, namely: Sarah Moon, Lillian Bassman, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Viviane Sassen, Paolo Reversi, Roger Ballen, Jack Davison, Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, William Eggleston and Saul Leiter.
What are the main ideas you want to portray through your pieces?
There are a number of different elements that seem to keep coming back into my work. I remember being a child, and going through the pages of Ancient Greece in an old Encyclopaedia. I was constantly drawn to seeing such beauty within the statues of goddesses; of the softness of their folds of fabric, of the splendour of their femininity that seemed to be frozen in eternity. It was a window into beauty whilst living in a rough and poor neighbourhood.
Madonna’s would sometimes appear in my works, or Ophelia’s, or of ancient times now long gone, but kept alive in the collective unconscious. Also, the mystics were something that enthralled me for so long, and these otherworldly states they would write about. I was also inspired by the surrealists as well the masks that people wear. Each of these elements would sometimes seem to softly dance through some of the works.