Thoughts on Stephen Gill
I was very attracted by Gill’s work in Hackney Flowers and so disappointed about the high cost of the book. In this series he used fragments of organic material with his photographs to create a layered look at life in the Hackney Marshes and I followed this idea by montaging real flowers on prints for Assignment 1.
He creates his own book, selling them through his own Bookshop Nobody’s Bookshop . I enjoy his work, his curiosity, zest for life and eclectic approach to photography. All his work seems so different. He put found objects actually inside his camera made images of street scenes then concentrated a magnifying glass onto some of the negatives to create markings in Outside. A back injury and the suggestion of using a shopping trolley to carry his equipment led him to explore the use of shopping trolleys (mostly by women) and produce a series of portraits . For several years he had wandered around taking pictures of things we don’t normally pay attention to, like people asking for directions to places, or 24 hours in the life of a seaside bench. Some were collected together in his book Field Studies . There’s an article here about this but I was unable to find the series on his website
In Buried he took photos in Hackney Wick and buried them there, varying the amount of time he left them according to rainfall as he liked the feeling of chance. It reminded me of the print I left in the nearby Copse last year before I even knew about Gill’s work. I haven’t looked for the print since before last November so made sure to check on it the other day. It’s still there, rolled up underneath its large, fallen branch but there’s so much undergrowth around it now that I couldn’t reach it even with a long stick.
In the YouTube video below Gill is talking about the Best Before End Exhibition in Foam, Amsterdam in 2013.
I was struck by his idea of collaboration with a place, how he steps backwards whilst the subject forwards, and if he feels strongly about something then this is an immediate catalyst towards allowing the subject to carry him. In an earlier YouTube video of him talking to Martin Parr here about an Exhibition in Brighton, and work he produced in Brighton for this, Gill talks about the need to ‘shake off what you think you know” and extract what a place feels like – how he scooped up articles, and pressed and dried sea life – like a hoover.
I’ve been thinking about his personal voice. To begin with, reading about him and watching the video reminded me of my youngest grandson who is intensely curious about life, and used to have his pockets bulging with ‘treasures’ found on the common. Then I thought more on Stephen Gill and how he is exploring the nature of objects and of photographs, creating tactile photography and noticing the smaller things in life. he concentrates more deeply on this whilst I tend to be more like a butterfly, trying an idea out then moving on. I can learn a lot from him.