Brighton Photo Biennial 2010 Artist's Statement: Stephen Gill at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery

Stephen Gill interviewed by Mark Sheerin | 05 October 2010
Beach-town comber: Stephen Gill
Artist's Statement: In his own words…Stephen Gill talks about his show Outside In at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery as part of Brighton Photo Biennial 2010

"I was asked to make a body of work purely for this festival. The only boundaries really were to be ready in time for the festival and the pictures to be made in Brighton and Hove. So not being from here, not knowing anybody from Brighton, I decided that rather than make a very descriptive body of work and saying, "this is Brighton," I decided to have a go at stepping back and almost to allow the place to steer and guide and inform me.

I've attempted to do this by literally scooping up bits of Brighton and I love the idea of almost wringing out a towel and just wondering if it's possible to make a body of work that's oozing with the place itself. So what I did was collect objects and things I wanted, sometimes living creatures, and put them inside my camera. And so the subject matter is then either side of the lens, both inside the body of the camera and in front of the camera.

It's a weird, unusual way of working because you're sort of half blind. You're slightly steering the image. You know what you're photographing and you're very aware of what you've put inside the camera. But what you don't know is where the objects will land so it is this idea of intentions where it collides with chance.

And between each image I would kind of tilt the camera and, if there was nothing living, kind of shake the camera and kind of just work with that, really. For me it's a very, very exciting way of working because photography's often so much about control and to kind of let go of that is quite liberating for me.

Often I would use the sunlight that was falling onto Brighton, passing through a magnifying glass, and burning into a film emulsion. I was fishing on the Marina and literally pulling subject matter out of the sea, barbecuing it, eating it and then putting the bones and the tail back into the camera. So it's the idea of just absorbing a place and just trying to let the place guide me and make the work itself.

Other objects included insects and creatures, an ant, and crabs, seaweed, saltwater, false nails, false eyelashes, plants, seeds, rabbit droppings, marbles, bags, hairclips, fishing tackle, headphone jacks, ringpulls, zippers, and most of all, which I haven't mentioned, just tiny, tiny particles which you scoop up, which are dust-like, but because you're working with scale the images start pulling in two different directions.

I've sort of regarded them as in-camera photograms. A photogram is where, rather than using a camera, you lay an object on top of light-sensitive material, like those early photographs of leaves and feathers. Since 2007 I've been dabbling with it and scooping up bits of Hackney, where I live in East London, but this time it's more embedded in the actual negative, almost like insects stuck in amber. That's what I was thinking of, so the objects are encapsulated in the neg, and it's a 100% analogue process. There's no computer process at all."

Admission free. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm.


Logo for the Brighton Photo Biennial
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Five to see at the Fringe: Part One
Behind the Scenes: Three Views of Brighton
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