Saturday, 16 August 2014

PAUL WALSH INTERVIEW

1/ Paul, many thanks for accepting to join the 2012 pics project platform. I would like to start this interview in a chronological order. First, what brought you to painting? Then what made you shift to photography?
From early on, I had an interest in painting and eventually went on to study it at university. It was at university that I was first introduced to photography and taught how to process film and print photographs. At the time, I was fascinated by the abandoned industrial landscapes found on the periphery of Birmingham, the city where I grew up. I made photographs there to take back to my studio and started to incorporate them into my large-scale canvases, painting over them and etching into the prints. Over time, I became more excited by the picture making process than that of painting. The pleasure of walking outside, free from the confines of my studio was incredible and I came to abandon painting concentrating entirely on photography. I’ve been making photographs now for around 16 years and I’m still utterly obsessed by it.

2/ I remember my original interest for the theme of the “window” as a teenager. It then developed logically into the “frame”. This theme is to be found obviously is many art and other practices. That said it seems to me like there is a strong equivalence between painting and photography. Does that evidence have a strong predisposition in your practice and your way of engaging with the world?
Painting and photography have always been about me putting a frame around a world I didn’t fully understand and trying to make sense of it. By pulling the chaos of my surroundings together into a frame, I could hope to turn it into something that I could communicate with others. For me, framing the world within a photograph is not just about creating a view of a place I want the viewer to consider, but it is also about me exposing something about myself. I use photography as a method of expressing myself in a way that words cannot.




3/ When visiting your Into Nature series I cannot help but being excited about the way you photograph the un-seen. By that I mean that you succeed in defacing the perspective and set the viewer into what can barely be seen ahead. How would you describe this way of capturing the landscape and could you give us your thoughts about this sort of deconstructing?
Generally when I am on a walk, I am passing through a place I have never been before. The location is new and I don’t know what lies beyond the view ahead of me. This is part of the excitement that keeps me alert to my surroundings and persistently moving onward. With my series Into Nature I wanted to express the way the obscured places beyond the brow of a hill or a bend seem to entice one onward into the unknown. The pictures are minimal in their construction as they are not about a destination as such, but more about the path that gets you there.

4/ Maps are very important to your work. What is your relation to them?
Maps are incredibly exciting to me. They play an important role in my practice and I would be lost without them, literally. I find it fascinating to look over a map and see names and places that I have never visited before. I want to visit these places and discover how the names and shapes on the map translate into the real world. For me, maps are like another tool to express the intentions of my projects and create a greater sense of a walking journey. Maps in my work enable viewers to make sense of my journeys, to see where it began, passed through and ended.

5/ The act of walking might be your most important asset.  Could you explain where it comes from and could you envisage your photography without it?
I grew up in the centre of a large city.  My parents worked long hours and on weekends, we would venture into the countryside on long walks together. It was our time together away from the cacophony of the city, so now I naturally associate walking with a sense of freedom and well-being. This love of walking carried on and I spent years travelling and trekking all over the world. It was only in the past 5 years, however, that I made the literal connection between walking and photography, making it the basis of my practice. At this point of my career, I feel there are limitless possibilities for me to explore with walking, so I can’t imagine making work about something else. For now, I have lists of ideas for new projects but not enough time to get the work made.




6/ What equipment do you use and how does it relate to your walking process and mental approach?
I started out using an old Russian 35mm film camera called a Zenit. Years later, when digital photography became available, I bought into it straight away. Digital isn’t for everybody. You can tell the difference between digital and analogue, but it works for me. At the moment, I use a Nikon with three lenses and a flashgun. I walk a lot, so I want to travel light.

7/ Some people might not really understand your work and would critic that your photography might become repetitive because of your subjects and methodology. What can you answer to them?
All of my work explores walking in some way, so if you are not interested in this theme, then you may find it hard to be inspired by it. I try to make every series different and always hope to push myself in a new direction regarding ideas and technical application. My work is highly personal and subjective, but I hope that in some way, each series deals with other layers of complexity that go beyond where I have walked. There are many reasons why people walk: adventure, therapy, religious or political reasons, or simply to get from A to B. These differences are the underlying basis for each new series and before starting to make new work, I research into each area to ensure I am taking my photography somewhere new.

8/ Who and what are your inspirations?
Any photographer that shares my interest in walking immediately becomes an inspiration of some kind. Early on, I was influenced by the American realist painters such as Edward Hopper, and later by photographers such as Robert Adams and Harry Gruyaert, who have a unique way of constructing a photograph. In recent years, however, I find myself much more inspired by literature and am constantly reading. Some of my most influential books were written by the likes of W.G. Sebald, Robert Macfarlane, Rebecca Solnit and Iain Sinclair.

9/ I love reading your blog. I find it very instructive, seductive and soothing. You also put a great deal at helping, teaching and connecting people. Is that part of a walking community spirit? Do you see that part as important as your general practice?
I definitely believe there is a real bond between people who take walking seriously, beyond an everyday necessity. I also think that there is a growing interest in walking, particularly in art. Many people are putting on walks that I blog about and most public galleries regularly have some kind of event that takes participants on a walk of some kind, through a historical location or around a gallery space. What I learn and discover, I want to share it and this is the main inspiration behind my blog. I want others to be inspired by walking photography and I want them to join in.




10/ How do you find yourself connected to the world?
Being a photographer can at times feel isolating. Social media, however, has really expanded the world of the photographer and through Facebook, Twitter, my blog and my website, I have amassed a large network of contacts with whom I can share ideas with. Ultimately, it is when I am out making work on foot that I feel most connected to the world, and I am never happier as when I am experiencing the world in this way rather than from behind a desk.

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