Hi Nigel! Welcome to Pellicola. Landscape photographer of nocturnal and urban places, tell us something about yourself. When did you decide to dedicate yourself to photography?
Hi there! I first became interested in photography in 2016, when I purchased a small Panasonic Lumix camera. This was a little micro four thirds thing. Honestly the appeal for me at the time was its tiny size, ideal for accompanying me on my walks, and its retro looks. I didn’t know a thing about photography at the time. But pretty soon I discovered The New Topographics and William Eggleston and this whole world opened up. It was a lot like discovering music as a teenager. I’ve been devoted to it ever since.
Your photography describes familiar places that you’ve always known. But in a moment where they are transformed in something new by the contrast between the darkness of nights and artificial lights. Which is the best time (also in term of hours) for you to go taking pictures and which camera do you use to make them so bright?
I think the time I tend to shoot has a lot to do with my work schedule. I work a night job, so on my nights off I wander around with my camera. The solitude and quiet of the night is a large part of it as well. I can really get into the zone when I’m not distracted by people. As for my camera, it’s a Fuji X-T2. I shoot at base ISO and favor a deep focus, so a tripod and long exposures are a must.
This combination between natural and artificial is present in almost all your series: bare trees stand like light poles, the human illumination makes the darkness colourful and clear. What is interesting for you into this ambivalence of territory?
Thanks for making that observation! I don’t know if I exactly have an answer. In many ways, I’ve been asking the question myself. A great deal of photography is mysterious to me. When you get past the technical, photography is really only about seeing. You see what you see, and you capture that by seeing through this magical little box. Now that’s incredible. But why am I seeing what I’m seeing? What am I looking for, what am I moved by? I don’t really understand that, any better than I understand why, when I hear three or four particular notes played together in a particular way, I get an immediate and visceral response to the music. I just move through the world, observing it, and when I see something that strikes me emotionally or viscerally, I click the shutter, and trust that other people might get the same response when they see it.
Regarding your project (Sub)urban Nightscape, urban areas and the night have always been considered places and time of threshold where you feel like into an in-between state, a non geographically and temporally defined space. What do you think about this consideration, does it approach somehow to your series?
(Sub)Urban Nightscape probably represents the work I tend to do the most. It’s the result of long walks through cities at night, and again, those mysterious qualities I mentioned above.
Your scenes are mostly presented by a certain distance, sometimes from the outside of a fence (threshold), what stopped you from going closer and why did you select this point of view?
I think a lot of my considerations are pretty practical, honestly. I have one camera (that I regularly use) and one lens for that camera (a 35mm equivalent). So all of my images are going to have that slightly wide field of view. But it’s also how I observe naturally. I stand back and I watch. I’m not one to get up close, all up in the mix. And again, it’s not so much a considered decision, as it is merely the result of the million unknown forces acting upon me at any given moment. All of these mysterious actions are what make the image.
Quite different, Drifting River Hall is the only series among yours representing an interior space, an abandoned and empty house, that you photographed under the day light. Which are the thoughts behind this project?
I’m glad you noticed this one! The little series is one of my favourites. That hall is out in a part of the rural country that my parents grew up in. It’s abandoned now and in disrepair, obviously. My cousin and I were in the area one afternoon and she mentioned that the owner, a friend of hers, had left it unlocked and that I could go in and get some pictures if I wanted. The space was beautifully deteriorated. I felt a lot of history in there, and the light coming in through the windows was fantastic.
Almost every picture has been documented with the time of shooting as maybe prove of your presence inside that desolate and timeless space. Are you interested in representing other similar interior or this one had a particular meaning for you?
I would very much love to capture spaces like this more often, and in fact I would jump at any opportunity to do so, but I rarely get the chance. This particular place was a sort of community hall that people congregated at after weddings and the like. I was in there myself once, as a little kid. The whole space felt potent with history and memories, now standing as a relic of another time. Hopefully, some of the meaningful resonance that I felt comes through to the viewer, but that kind of thing is out of my hands, at least consciously.
Is there any other place after your own places that you would be interested in photographing? Do you have any future project in mind you would like to share with us?
No place in particular, but I’m open to anything. I don’t believe that the location matters very much. Images form in the space between the visual environment and the eye/mind. It’s like a dance. Always forming and deforming. Images are everywhere and nowhere. The place doesn’t matter.
One last question Nigel, where do you find the inspiration and which photographers or artists have influenced your production the most?
Books are my main inspiration, but the great number of artists I’ve found on Instagram have also been invaluable. I think Instagram is really allowing the art to push forward tremendously. It seems to me that there are more photographers doing better and better work than ever before. Everyone sees what everyone else is doing, immediately, and it pushes us to try harder and see more deeply. I haven’t been doing this for any great length of time, but I can see how in times past things moved much slower. Photography must have happened in isolation more often than not, and I think it’s beautiful that photographers can share everything with an appreciative audience now, even if they’re living in the middle of nowhere and taking pictures by themselves at night.
Thank you Nigel for having shared your time with Pellicola, I hope you enjoyed it!
Thanks Claudia, it’s been a pleasure!
Interview by Claudia Bigongiari
Images © Nigel Agar