THE PLANTATION COLLECTIVE 22

benjamin swanson

INTERVIEW BY JOANNA CRESSWELL

SCULPTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Tell us about your process. What reference or influence do you take from other mediums? What are the important elements of what you do? My approach is definitely exploratory, however most of my projects originate from my studies of the concept of failure, which underpins most of my practice. I am fascinated by misconceptions. I take my influences from many mediums. I love Charlotte Posenenske's sculpture, Peter Burgess paintings, and I am good friends with some excellent Illustrators. The approaches of sculptors and illustrators were a real inspiration for this project.

Are these pictures concerned with exploring formal and aesthetic interests, or are they representational, metaphorical? What is the weight that holds these pictures together? This project pays particular attention to processes. I used rotations of rigid bodies (a physics term to describe tracking relative forces in motion) to try and describe the ways in which still life photography references the moment, pre processes and post processes all at the same time. These images have a reference to reality, but also impossibility to them. I made compositions that would not work without being able to preconceive them in Photoshop. Much of this work is reactionary to what I am witnessing in the commercial world. It is very rare now to see images that existed entirely physically; things are pieced together in your imagination, and then in a computer. 

Are you a photographer or an artist using photography? I come from a background in sculpture. I definitely used to think that I was a sculptor using photography, however over time I realized that my compositions relied so much on the perspective of the camera, and lighting, that I have become a more of a photographer that dabbles in sculpture.

Does your work reflect on the medium of photography or the photographic image? If so, is that intentional? For this series specifically, I am reflecting on the medium of photography. This work is reactionary to my experiences in commercial photography, and the intrinsic links with illustration, sculpture, pre and post processes that are commonly used within the industry. Often with my projects I take something from sciences or theology or philosophy and think, how does this relate to photography? How does thinking in this way alter my image making? Photography is effectively my tool for figuring things out.

Typically, are your works more about construction or deconstruction? I make all my images, physically and digitally; so they are definitely about construction. I enjoy the fact that every element of my images are a conscious decision.

Are you interested in the notion of your pictures as objects? Do you think about how their physicality may endure as you are photographing them or is that an afterthought? If I were to move the camera an inch to the left, or an inch to the right, the entire composition would be ruined. Therefore the object, or the completed image, can only really exist with photography. I really enjoy printing my images in different sizes, with different borders, and just playing with them. Such small things can change the way you see pictures so much. It fascinates me. Rotations of Rigid Bodies existed on my computer desktop as thumbnails for a while, and viewing them so small they became illusions of different form. They became a completely different experience. I am considering making some postage stamp sized stickers of this series, which could be fun.

Often sculptural photographic works are concerned with elevating banal objects, situations or events to a status of ‘art’ – when does something become art for you? I remember receiving an email from my dad, saying that he had a pencil on his desk which had needed sharpening for months, but he hadn't sharpened it. It had just laid there in the same spot. He was asking me " is this art"? I don't know whether it is or not, but it was amusing. Before University I went travelling a lot. I thought that being in exciting countries where everything is new and different would somehow inspire great projects. What I actually produced was absolute tripe. I have believed since, that the best subject matters are often right under your nose, you just have to switch on to realize it. It seems to me that's what artists do.

www.benjamin-swanson.com

Published by Trine Stephensen, February 2016