It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. You might have noticed a lack of new images, facebook live etc, around the Dublin Salt project. But, I can promise you I’ve been super busy and we’re nearly ready to go. The 4am starts are tricky at the moment, but I just had a really special morning of mist just today. A few more images still to get but so close now.
Honestly, I’ve seen a number of professional people copying our workshops around some of my visual ideas, so I made a conscious decision not to release anything for a while. I’ve also managed to shoot some great new locations, and hopefully create some really unique work of Dublin Bay. I’m really excited to share the work later this year, but would like the new ideas to stay under wraps for a while yet. Mark your diaries, November 1st.
I hope its going to be a big year for me personally with new art. With this in mind, I wanted to publish the interview below. I was contacted recently by Lisa Fitzgerald, a fellow photographer, workshop participant and creative student with a request for an interview for her college project. Thanks, Lisa for sending this through and making me think about the answers.
A few answers below about getting ..
- Given your initial training was heading towards an Academic career in History, can you describe why you made the move over to photography? Did you consider it to be the logical move for you?
I think I was pretty lucky in that respect. I did a degree in History and Politics and an MA in International Conflict Studies. When I finished studying I had 2 possible career paths that really interested me. I considered my options and thought about travelling and working for an NGO or something along those lines, but the draw of the mountains and the imagery was too much. I also had an amazing support photographically in my father. Was it a logical choice? Probably not, its not the easiest career to succeed at, especially landscape photography but no regrets.
- Comparing your earlier work particularly Burning Man to your more current projects it occurred to me that all your current work is based around landscape photography. Is this your genre of choice now or do you think you return to this earlier style of photography? Can you outline the evolution of your photography styles and processes throughout your career and how it differs from the Burning man project?
This is going to be a long answer. The landscape was always my first love, although like most people I photographed everything to begin with. My Dad was the most important influence in the development of my photography and was a constant source of education and inspiration for my formative photographic years. Without him there is no question, I would not be a photographer.
But like everything in life we have to find our own path. Mine was Wicklow, and the Wild Garden project which I exhibited and published in 2011. I always feel like Wild Garden was a project that allowed me to cut my teeth. I was learning, becoming technically competent, getting to know what worked for me creatively.
In many respects when I look back it’s pretty evident that I was, in fact, learning through the process of creating Wild Garden. There are still lots of images that I look back and think, yeah that’s still ok, but there’s definitely a lack of consistency which ran through the presentation of the book and exhibition, and some images that I look at now and just think .. ooops ..
So Burning Man .. Well this really just fell into my lap as a friend had asked me to go over and create a series of pictures for a kickstarter campaign reward. The project morphed into a lot more but this really just happened organically while there. I didn’t go out with the intention to shoot people or landscape in a way that would form a book and exhibition, but the material was just so inspiring it just happened that way. The work was actually shot Aug/Sept 2011 and I exhibited Wild Garden the following October 2011. So I guess in a way I was just making sense of things still at Burning Man.
The Burning Man book came out in 2013 and I won lots of awards around it plus lots of media coverage. I still look back on this work and feel very proud of it but I can’t claim much intentional process, simply an organic reaction to circumstance.
After Burning Man I felt like I fell into a hole creatively. I was teaching a lot of workshops and trying to get myself in a position where I could contribute to supporting a family. My wife was always amazing in that respect, but it was time I got myself in a reasonable position to contribute. So came the workshops. They really took off and I was still shooting a lot on my travels while teaching. Lots of images that I still love to this day, but I felt like what I was shooting was often the same as everyone else. I love travelling and teaching, but there was no greater purpose in terms of a project or body of work.
Since 2015 I’ve been able to get back into a better creative space. ‘In a Different Light’ and ‘Dublin Salt’ are the projects I am currently working on. The latter is in the final stages and will be exhibited this year.
From a style point of view, when I made Wild Garden, there was little or no reference point for the images. Digital wasn’t properly on the scene in 2006 and I wasn’t being inundated with social media threads seeing the same images regurgitated again and again. I wasn’t out looking for my version of ‘said scene’. Glendalough was mine. I think this was the crux of the issue with my creative hiatus after exhibiting Burning Man in 2013. I found what I was shooting from 2011 until 2015 mostly boring. It looked like everyone else’s work. Wild Garden and Burning Man had felt fresh at the time of shooting, but I was a bit lost when they finished.
Role on 2018 and Dublin Salt. I have to thank my fellow IrishLight photographers for inspiration as a means to find my own design and process for this project.
Getting back to Dublin Salt, I kept looking out the attic window at the light unfolding across Dublin Bay. There were so many unique locations around that nobody had shot, huge scope for new interpretation plus this is my home. I guess this really spurred me on again. Trying to shoot something a little bit unique, something that was my home and something that I found personally inspiring. The rut was broken. Role on Dublin Salt this year, next year ‘In a Different Light’, and I have a few more ideas up my sleeve. Im going to be busy for a while creatively and that suits me just fine.
- Can you describe the style you are using in your work today?
I found myself committing to a clean minimal style for Dublin Salt sprinkled with urban architecture but still maintaining a vibrant colour base. I think minimal is something which is pretty trendy these days. When I look back at Wild Garden from 2011 is littered with this style of shots. I just didn’t have a word for it, or an ability to clearly commit to a style yet.
- Can you outline briefly your process of creating a project? How do you think of the concept and theme for a project? Are you always looking for inspiration for new projects? Do you set out objectives for new projects or do they ‘just happen’?
For me, the idea or inspiration just needs to come to you. I spent 2 – 3 years feeling pretty frustrated in this respect but right now I’m wondering where ill get the time to bring what I want to fruition. In terms of objectives, I don’t set them initially but as a project comes to a conclusion I start to think, How many images, am I covering the intended bases, when will this happen, where will this happen etc ..
- Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect of a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
I study the weather a lot and have a good understanding of interpreting the forecast and possible outcomes. I teach this a lot. Really though just turn up a lot, be committed, get wet, wait, get wet again and go back for more.
- I see from my Research that you have spearheaded a project called IrishLight which brings together 10 of the best professional based Irish landscape photographers. What was your motivation in creating this project? How do collaborations affect you and your creativity? Do you gain any additional inspiration or energy from this sort of collaboration?
I have personal relationships with most of the top guys in landscape photography in Ireland and I don’t mind some organising. I felt like I was in a unique position to bring this group together and put something on the table that could inspire the masses. There’s much more collective impact when we work together. I have definitely gained a tonne of inspiration from working with this amazing bunch of photographers.
- Is there something you always ask yourself or think just before you push the button?
Not really. I know when I’m in the groove and good things are happening and I know when I’m bored and thinking of breakfast.
- When you look at other photographers work, is there a photograph that wish you had taken?
I’m not sure if I feel like I wish I had taken that, but I’m continually inspired by the work of others.
- Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
Just one .. that’s not fair I’m taking 3 ..
- In your opinion, what makes a good picture stand out from the average?
Thought provoking, visually unique and different. Less same, more unique. I like looking at a picture and thinking I haven’t seen it done that way before.
- What does photography mean to you?
It’s a difficult question and one I would rather not answer with a tonne of glossy language. Simply inspiration, motivation, enjoyment and pride.
- Some photographers say that they see the world differently and that they have a different perspective on life. What is your perspective on the world and on life?
This could fall into the rambling glossy language category that I was trying to avoid in the previous question. I think everyone has a different perspective on life really. Whats mine? I value my family and friends above all else, then my photography, then my wine.
- So what’s the future for Peter Gordon? Do you have an idea as to where you might like to do next with your work and career?
I hope to keep making new work that inspires and satisfies me personally. I think the next few years will see me exhibit a lot of new projects. I am going to launch petergordonphotography.com and move my personal projects away from ExploreLight. I also feel my work will become more conceptual as time goes by (ideas in the back burner) without abandoning the notion that’s its ok for art to be pretty.