Deerbrains - Hi Chris, first off could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Chris King - I’m a Photographer based on the south coast of Kent, I’ve been making my photographs for about 15 years. Mostly my work gets described as ‘quiet’, which suits me.
DB - What was your first experience of photography and how did that lead you to become the photographer you are now?
CK - I’m not one of these people who claim to have always loved photography from childhood, or that I grew up with a camera in my hand. Although I do remember my brother in law Nigel showing me how to print from a negative at home when I was young, but this only came back to me fairly recently .
In fact I came to photography relatively late after I decided to return to education when I was about 26 (I had been an antiques restorer up to that point). I originally studied Film, but moved towards photography because I preferred to work alone.
This was pre-digital, and I really loved working in the peace and quite of the university darkroom. I think this experience of chemical photography at college has shaped the way I work now, I get no real enjoyment working digitally, but I can quite happily spend hours working in the darkroom. I always tend to come back to working with traditional process, to the point where my new work is partly about the physicality of film & paper.
DB - Can you tell us about what equipment your using?
CK - I mainly use a Bronica SQ-a Medium Format Camera; on occasion I have used Large Format, especially when I work on education projects with young people. I really prefer square format, its just the way my eye seems to compose things.
I work with film, mostly black & white, which I develop myself. I’m lucky enough have my own studio & darkroom. I don’t prefer film for sentimental reasons and I’m not against digital, in fact if I was working as a commercial photographer I would be using digital, you’d be mad not to. I’m interested in the physicality of negatives, contacts and prints, in fact my new work is very much about traditional photography’s material essence and its failings.
But, to be honest I’m not really interested in equipment, for me the less choice the better, thinking about what lens to use etc just gets in the way of what I’m trying to do or what I’m thinking about.
DB - Who is inspiring you at the moment photography wise?
CK - I’m drawn to photographers who are making work that is obviously integral to their everyday life (and I don’t mean just financially) I’m trying not to sound too mawkish or romantic, but I am attracted to photographers who work away at their art for years, often unnoticed, quietly creating photographs that only they could make.
British photographers from the late 70’s, like Raymond Moore were like this; there was no UK market for their work, and almost no galleries. In my opinion Moore is still woefully overlooked in British Photo History.
Today there is so much noise and gloss in photography; in fact there is just so much photography out there, that it’s often hard to find the sort of artists I’m taking about.
James Luckett (www.consumptive.org) is one, there’s something of Henry David Thoreau about him. Another is Paul Kenny (www.paul-kenny.co.uk/) who makes beautiful physical images. Both of these artists have an individual voice that only comes from really wrestling with the medium.
DB - Do you take much inspiration outside of photography?
CK - I would say the majority of my ideas & inspiration come from things other than photography. In fact the whole business of photography often has the opposite effect on me, it makes me question the medium and my decision to work with it, it can be such a stunted, awkward art form.
I’m particularly influenced by my surroundings, I like to work alone, which is probably why I don’t do many portraits, and is definitely one of the reasons why I pursued photography rather than film making. But I don’t really think too much about where the drive to make the work comes from; maybe the photographs themselves are the inquiry?
DB - Your work appears very conceptual and pre-meditated, do you have a thought that you wish to follow and develop or do you take inspiration from somewhere?
CK - I always have lots of ideas in various stages of maturity; I’ve learnt to give them space to develop in their own time. Its got a lot to do with coincidence and chance. A seed of an idea will be in the back of your mind for a while and then you read about something that links in with it, then over time it attracts more elements from your environment and begins to make sense. This process is intertwined with making pictures, exploring an idea with the camera.
This was what happened with the Tower of London, I spent exploring with the camera, making pictures and questioning why I was drawn to the places I photographed. I talked to people working at the Tower, their stories fed into what I was looking at and slowly it began to take shape.
DB - When you become the resident photographer of the Tower of London did you find it a daunting prospect? Can you tell us a bit more about it?
CK - Yes it was a daunting prospect, it was a paid commission for a famous landmark and I felt a huge weight of expectation. I felt I had to create something spectacular to warrant the attention and of course this didn’t really fit with the way I work, or the photographs I tend to make.
The Tower is one of the most photographed parts of London, so I had to try and make something that explored it in a different way. Through talking to the people who live and work there I realized that I wanted to get past the official history and the well-known stories and search for the overlooked or quieter stories that were also there
Like the papier-mâché horse made by Felix Joubert, which was used to display Henry VIII’s armour for almost a hundred years. This lovely object was hidden under the armour for all those years, almost unnoticed and then quietly packed up and moved to a warehouse somewhere, to be replaced by a new version.
The photographs I made while exploring stories like Joubert’s Horse became ‘Other Histories’.
DB - Do you have any new projects or commissions that your working on?
CK - I’m actually working on a few new projects. I’m doing more work in the studio and darkroom and I’ve been developing a new technique that I will be using on my new work. I recently moved to Lydd in Romney Marsh, very near Dungeness, this whole area is fascinating and my new ideas are strongly linked to this coastal landscape & its history
DB - What advice would you give to photographers starting out?
CK - Don’t expect it to be easy.
DB - Is there any emerging photographers you think we should look out for?
CK - I don’t really like the word ‘emerging’, I saw a competition recently for ‘emerging’ photographers and the cut off age was 35, that’s not emerging, that’s just young.
That said, I think the excellent work of Martin Brink (www.martinbrink.se) & Betrand Fleuret (www.bertrandfleuret.com/) is definitely worth seeking out.
DB - Would you like to thank anyone?
CK - Jac, for her patience & everyone else for their faith
We are big fans of Chris's work here at Deerbrains which is why we think you should check his site here and follow his blog here