Oct 09, 2013

Phlearn Interviews Jack Davison

Jack Davison is a 22-year-old photographer from Essex, England.
Although his passion and drive lies within his photography Jack has an English Literature degree from Warwick University.

Jack’s work is a mix of both film and digitally manipulated photography. His passion lies within his portraiture and street photography. I would describe his photography as dark, beautiful, revealing, and truthful.

Jack left his home of Essex, England temporarily to travel the United States of America over the span of 6 months. Currently he’s back in England but by taking this trip Jack was giving himself the opportunity to shoot and create for a long period of time, while travelling through the United States of America.

Join us as Jack tells us about his adventures in the States, his transition from going from Photoshop based work to working with film, and he talks about his video work as well.

How did you become interested in photography?

I’ve always drawn and painted as a child, and it ended up being a natural step, particularly when I realized I couldn’t paint as detailed as I wanted to. Then when I was 15 years old I just started mucking around with the cheap digital camera we had in the house and have never really let up since.

What inspires you?

Everything, it can be faces, certain light, paintings, mug shots, and other photographers.

What’s on your gear list? (cameras, lenses, editing software)

Currently I’m without a DSLR, my Nikon took a 60mph tumble off the back of a speeding car in Utah and hasn’t quite been the same since. So currently I’m working with the Mamiya RB67, Nikon D5, Panasonic Lumix LX5 and a few other odd and sods.

How important is Photoshop to your work?

I’ve been slowly but surely stripping back the amount of Photoshop I use, unless I am experimenting and then anything goes. I got into a rut early on with over editing images and so I have made a concerted effort to concentrate more on the preproduction than the post. Recently I’ve been working a good deal with film and have realized that much of what I create in Photoshop, I can recreate with film outside of Photoshop.

On average, how long does it take you to “complete” an image? So, conceptualizing, shooting, editing…

Most pictures I shoot on the fly, I know many photographers sit and muse upon ideas for weeks on end while they conceptualize the image fully. Once I’ve shot a picture, I tend to get overexcited and rush through to get it finalized. As I recently converted to film within the last year, it has given me the chance to breathe before I work on my images.

behind the scenes

Do you have any formal training in photography or are you self-taught for the most part?

No formal training, I’ve learned from the people I’ve shot and worked with over the years. I did an English Literature degree at Warwick University.

What’s your favorite photo that you’ve ever taken?

Eeeesh, it’s usually something that I’ve shot recently. There’s an photo I did of a man named John Murphy who it took me a whole year to track down, and I’m still rather proud of that shot. Photo below on right

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my first photo book, trying to curate everything I’ve shot since I was 15 and work it into some kind of coherent and interesting form. It’s so important to see work in print rather than stuck as pixels on a screen. It’s been hugely beneficial to see which images work and which don’t in the printed form, I’m prepping for a solo exhibition in November in London where the printed image will be under scrutiny.

According to your website you live and work between London and Essex. However, you’ve spent the first 6 months of 2013 living in America.
Tell me about your experience of living in America for the past 6 months. What were you doing there? What were you trying to accomplish during your stay?

I decided early on after graduating that I wanted to go away for an extended period of time, and for a while I was torn between Japan and the USA. I ultimately went for 6 months in the states because of the amount of photographers I knew there. I had a few things I wanted to do while in the States, to give myself time to shoot continuously for an extended period of time and to become fully proficient with film cameras. Both of which I managed to accomplish, though the second one I’m still working on. 2 and a half months in New York, two and a half months on the road and a month in Portland OR.Taking in 26 states in 6 months was quite a lot to comprehend and shoot, but I was left with nothing but positive things to say about the country and it’s people and 10,000 images to go through. 2 and a half months is quite a short amount of time to see huge swathes of the country with states that would dwarf even the larger European countries. Certain cities and places seemed to stand out, New Orleans, Memphis stood out in the South, made better by the kindness of our hosts and the people we met there.

I found America a very easy place to find subjects in, there is a certain friendliness and ease with which you can approach people and ask to take a portrait of them. It undoubtedly helped having a foreign accent when sidling up to people in the street and sticking a camera in their face.

Tell me something (within the realms of photography or not) that you wish you were better at?

I need to work on my developing skills, I’d love to get in the dark room this winter. Outside of photography, I’m trying to work more with moving imagery, it’s something I find really difficult.

Besides photography you also participate in creating video work.

What do you like the most about video work? And do you have any advice to offer photographers who are wanting to get into video for their first time?
I enjoy how difficult I find it, I’ve shot a few different things for bands and it’s been a steep learning curve on learning my way around the software and just understandng the sheer scale of shooting even a 4 minute music video. I’d say to just throw yourself into it, shoot 10 second video sketches, play around with music, most of my short skits are on a few seconds or minutes in length.
The video work I’m most pleased with is a project I worked on for my degree. For our Shakespeare module, we were given the option of a 5000 word essay or a creative project, it was an easy choice. The result was a film attempting to dilute Shakespeare’s Othello into a 3 minute silent film.

. from Jack Davison on Vimeo.

How do you overcome a creative block?

I used to get awful creative block when I was painting and drawing, but I don’t seem to have quite the same problem with photography, I think it is because of the sheer number of images that are there for the taking, it’s just a case of going out and finding them.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “the shot”?

Someone set their dog on me in New Mexico while I was standing on the corner of their land trying to take a picture. I guess spending a year looking for John Murphy was a little bit odd too.

Who are some artists and/or photographers who you admire?

Pieter Hugo, Richard Avedon, Vivian Maier, Jacob Aue Sobol, Vivane Sassen, Lucien Freud, Jenny Saville, Irving Penn, Dali, Egon Schiele, the Mugshot Photographers in Mark Michelson’s Least Wanted book.

What inspired your small but beautiful series using ink? They’re beautiful pieces and I’d love to see more!

Thanks, I was just mucking about with ink doodles and got stuck watching the ink swirl around in the water, I then ended up shooting the ink droplets as they spiraled around. Often with these kind of pieces I end up seeing how they can be played around with in Photoshop, to create something more interesting.

What is your favorite type of photography to shoot? Is there anything in photography that you haven’t tried yet, but you’d like to?

Portrait and Street. It’s all about the people for me. I’ve been getting my head around landscapes and cityscapes a bit more recently, for some reason I found it quite a bit easier when using the Mamiya I bought in LA. Something clicked and I’ve been playing around shooting analogue landscapes, though I do find it tricky not having some element of a portrait in there.

What is your proudest moment as a photographer?

It tends to be when people out of the blue email you and ask for a print.

Tell us about your choice to use black and white in most of your photographs. Is this just an aesthetic choice or is there a reason why you like to work in mostly black and white?

I don’t set out to take black and white images, but it just seems to speak to me more than colour does. The process I take is fairly organic, I don’t know the outcome until I’ve got all the elements together. Black and white tends to win out because there is a graphic quality that seems to intensify the mood of the image.

What obstacles have you had to overcome to get to where you are today?

I’m not sure I’ve quite gotten anywhere yet, but the main obstacles have been dealing with the business side of things, you’ve really got to be clever about how you approach it. The obstacles I’ve encountered have usually been thrown up by agents, galleries and companies, but most of these hurdles can be overcome with a bit of common sense and a belief in your own work.
Interviewed By: Angela Butler
To keep up with Jack and his work you can do so on his Website, Facebook Page, Flickr, and Twitter.

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