Interview with Dan Wood
Q: Hi Dan, welcome to Pellicola! Tell us something about your life and yourself.
Hello, I’m Dan Wood, a Documentary Photographer from Wales, UK. I am married with two young children, Megan and Tomas, and have been taking photographs for nearly 25 years - my work these days mainly concentrates on Wales and the Welsh.
Q: Tell us how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures
Since an early age I always dabbled with point and shoot cameras and in my Teens I always had one in my pocket. I was constantly fascinated by how you could freeze time with this magical little black box. Serious photography began around 1995 when I purchased my first SLR - I was heavily into skateboarding at the time and wanted to shoot some quality photos of my friends. Shortly after, I attended a ‘How to use you camera’ evening course at the local college which really was invaluable to me as it opened all the doors to being photographically creative. Ironically, that was the only photo education I ever had and since then I have educated myself - mostly through books.
Q: After the boom of digital, many photographers abandoned film photography. Why do you still shoot film?
Shooting film is bittersweet. I missed the digital boat due to an untimely purchase of a Leica M6 film camera, when ultimately I should have been switching to digital. I had a functioning darkroom and very much enjoyed making my own prints, so at the time of the digital revolution I was all “I’m staying loyal to film!” but now, as time has gone by and film has become very expensive I really wish I could afford to make the switch but it’s impossible for me. I have some nice film cameras that I love and I also love film and the results it gives but I really would give it all up for a medium format digital camera as the financial squeeze of buying/processing film is killing me.
Q: Has your private life somehow driven your photography or any of your projects? Or are they just two separate things?
I’m inspired by the ups and downs of life and always try and tie in certain aspects of personal life into my projects, in some way or another as it really helps me express what I’m trying to say but also helps me connect directly with the project - It bridges the gap. There are several projects I have made that are 100% personal, one for instance is ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’ which was a very intimate view of my Wife’s struggle with depression and PTSD over a 2 year period, which incidentally turned into a collaboration with her. I find the process of involving personal life extremely rewarding, therapeutic and restorative. It’s how I engage with my problems and the general struggles of everyday life.
Q: It stands out a strong relationship with your homeland, Wales. How has Wales influenced the way you see the world around you?
Actually, the World has influenced the way I see Wales. Before I started seriously documenting Wales I had travelled quite extensively and I guess that’s what truly opened my eyes to my homeland, it was the trigger. I must have had an epiphany somewhere along the line and came to the realisation that there are photographs to be made right on my doorstep. Travelling is tiring and after around 8 years of travel and working normal jobs to save money to travel I was exhausted. Plus, I had met my future wife (In Shanghai) and she felt the same too, so we settled in Wales, where I already had a house.
Q: One of your most famous project is “Suicide Machine”, a project born after an internationally publicized statistic that Bridgend, your hometown, was experiencing a high rate of suicides in the early 2000s. Tell us about this project, what is the idea behind it and behind its title.
The title prompt’s the question: Is the town responsible for the suicides? to which my conclusion would definitely be, no. Bridgend was portrayed as a small rural village in the media and tricked people into believing that the incidents were all based within the village, but this wasn’t the case, Bridgend is also the name of the County (as well as the town) and has an overall population of around 180,00 people. Initially I was worried what effect the town would have on our small, growing family - we had our first child whilst the project was being made and we were deciding whether to settle here or move to the North of England nearer my Wife’s parents. My research uncovered lots of inaccuracies in the media stories and it soon became evident that they were sensationalising the whole thing. Yes there was a cluster of suicides which now seem like coincidences as opposed to anything more sinister. The project is a protest though and I wanted the People of Bridgend to really see what Bridgend looked like from the outside looking in. The loss of community and pride is particularly evident.
The Suicide Machine book, Published by Another Place Press was published in 2016 and sold out pretty quick, but it has recently been announced that there will be a 2nd Edition later on in 2019.
Q: The best way (or maybe not) to make photographers work popular is by using social media. What is your relationship with social networks?
Social media for photographers is very important whether we like it or not. It’s a love/hate relationship. Sometimes it can make you feel euphoric and other times it can make you feel depressed so you have to find the balance and try and partake in moderation. I only use Instagram and Twitter these days and I can honestly say that those two platforms have been imperative in getting my photography where it is today. I’ve made some valuable contacts and also real life friends through social media - it’s a necessity for all budding and established artists, I think.
Q: What keeps you inspired?
Staying inspired is extremely important to me and I guess that I find most of my inspiration through photobooks. I’m a collector and also trade (buy & sell) a little too, which is interesting. Attending exhibitions and watching You-Tube photographer talks/lectures is great too. But probably the best way to stay inspired, I think, is to just go out with the camera. Give yourself a task/project and go somewhere where you’ve never been before, explore, meet people, you never know what you might discover. The prospect of that keeps the metaphorical fire burning in my belly.
Q: Thank you Dan for finding the time for this interview. Last thing we ask you is to recommend to our readers a film or an album.
Thank you too! I would like to recommend one of each if I could. A favourite film of mine is: Pecker - Comedy about an unknown street photographer who accidentally hits the big time - it’s funny. And an album would be: Opus Eponymous by Ghost - Doom Metal from Scandinavia (I’m a metalhead)
All images © Dan Wood