What are the different processes your work goes through before it reaches conclusion?
Initially I will find a location that holds some level of interest to me. I
may visit more than once, but usually something fixes itself in my mind the
first time I see it. It is like taking a mental photograph. It could be some
architectural detail or a particular arrangement of colours or something
else. On returning to my studio I set about trying to recall that memory
through the process of making a model. This model will be made taking into
consideration a particular angle from which to make a photograph. On
completing the model, I will set up some studio lights and photograph it. I
sometimes re-photograph five or six times until its right. Then there is the
process of making a photographic print which can achieve your initial seen
photograph. The whole process could take a few weeks, a month or longer.

What does photographing models allow you to do that you can not in the real?
I guess ultimately its control. The type of photographs I want to make are
just not possible in our busy and overcrowded cities. Making models allows
me to strip away the unwanted detail to reveal an underlying form or
structure.

What are your chosen subjects and why?
I am fascinated by the city and urban environment. Its the overpowering
visual mixture of everything which demands to be interpreted through the
making of art.

It is an interesting concept designing the interior of galleries as a
subject for your photographs, where did this particular idea come from?

Following a project in 1995, when I photographed objects in some small boxes
I had made, I began placing these object on top of the boxes. This idea of
arranging objects on plinths began forming in my mind, which in turn grew
into gallery spaces, interiors and scale.

There has been a shift between your earlier models of gallery interiors to a
new subject of moving images taken from your car. What brought this about?

Well not exactly. My recent exhibition 'From the Ring Road' was about the
half glimpsed sights you see when driving in and out of different cities.
These were still photographs which involved models and some double
exposures. Incidentally I have been working on some video works for a
gallery in Sheffield. These are about shifting the view beyond the frame of
a photograph and moving a video camera along tracks to reveal more to the
left and right, or passing by in a single movement.

You go through a very elaborate process in order to make your photographs of
models appear as realistic as possible, however they are fabricated
environments, do you leave clues in the work to reveal this fallacy or is it a fact that can only be learned from exhibition information?

This sense of reality is important to me. Photography's history in
documentary and trying to reveal a truth has left the medium with its own
familiar language. I am interested in working with this set of rules, but in
a new way. I do not work to scale or on a perspective table, so the
'imperfections' become the clues. I also use a limited colour palette to
reduce the contrast in my photographs.

How important is it that your processes are revealed?
I am quite happy for viewers of my photographs not to realise they are
models at all. I do not set out to trick anyone and its the content or
subject matter which is equally engaging for me. When looking at a wider
series of my photographs, the processes begin to reveal themselves.

Do you stick with what you know or are you quite experimental?
I enjoy the slow and methodical approach of making in my studio. There is
plenty of time for reflection and planning the next one. I do have days when
I turn up to the studio and try something different or just shoot a couple
of rolls of film in town. The video works were new and experimental and I
decided to do them as a way of moving my practice onto new territory.

Can you reveal what scale the models are?
I make things which usually fit on the table top, but they are slowly
getting bigger. There is something different which happens when you can
place your head and camera lens inside them. If I had a larger studio then
they may increase in size again.

What is the timescale for building one of your models?
I think a recent one (Empty Building) took over a month, but then I had
planned three separate shots, and the sides came off to allow for
photographing.

What happens to the models once the photograph has been taken?
The models are broken down and reused. The models only really exist from one
viewpoint and do not work in the round.

What is your current project?
I am working on a new photographic series of model buildings exteriors. They
are the unseen parts of buildings which are either obscured by trees, other
buildings or facing away from the road.

What are your forthcoming exhibitions?
I have just completed four commissioned video works for the Site Gallery in
Sheffield, UK. These will be shown as part of 'Immediate 3' in August 2005.

What were the weirdest, worst and most enjoyable shows that you have been
involved in?

I still list 'eating chicken's feet with Lawrence Weiner' on my resume as
'any other experience'. He was a selector for East International 2002 in
Norwich, UK, and had chosen some of my work. The selected artists went for a
Chinese meal. Lawrence particularly liked chickens' feet and ordered a large
basket for the table. After much trying we could not find a matching pair!

Who are your artistic heroes?
There are many artists I admire for different reasons, Baldessari, Weiner,
some of the German photographers, Penone's sculptures, but I would struggle
to find anyone more inspirational than Jem Southam. His photographs have the
ability to effect me in their command of the medium, ambition, and relevance
to contemporary debate.

Interview with Gaia Persico, April 2005.

 

 

Top: Empty Building, 2005, c-print. Above left: Studio Window, 2002, c-print. Above center: Switches, 2002, c-print. Above right: Extinguishers, 2002, c-print.

© images Stephen Monger, courtesy of the artist.