ALICE MYERS, 1986, UK
YCS: There are varied sociological concerns featured in your subject matter, from population movement to modernisation – all symptoms of humanity attempting to control (or cope) with their environment. Can you isolate why this core theme is of interest to you? How challenging was the process of realising your main motivation?
AM: I haven’t fully figured out my motivations for making work. That’s part of the puzzle that I’m in the process of piecing together. Also, motivations develop and change shape over time. So at the moment I’m particularly interested in the invisible tensions and histories that reside in a landscape and the ability or inability of photography to explore something so un-visual. But that interest grew out of the work I was making in Ireland, it wasn’t an initial motivator.
YCS: You use beauty and mixed image placement to explore complex subjects involving inherent chaos; I like this idea that you make chaos quite aesthetically appealing and visually simplified. How did this come to be your approach, and what is the theorisation or concept behind it?
AM: Your question brought up two issues for me:
1. I think instead of tackling chaos directly I’m more interested in what we can and can’t control, and in what we think we can control in the world around us. This does involve an interest in chaos, but I wouldn’t say I’m aiming to make chaos aesthetically appealing.
2. I’m not sure about the idea of ‘visual simplification’. I don’t think photographs are ever really that simple, and I tend to be more drawn to visual complexity. But I do want my work to be easy to connect with in an immediate way- I want to communicate clearly- and I suppose selecting images that do this is a reduction or distillation of sorts.
My visual approach always grows out of the subject matter, and out of the ideas I’m working with. In a way it’s a conversation between these elements.
YCS: Do you have a single favourite picture from all that you have taken, and what determines its value for you? What first drew you to photography, and what led you to pursue it as a career practice?
AM: I don’t have a single favorite picture. The way I feel about my work changes all the time. I tend to like my most recent work best, which I hope shows I’m progressing.
YCS: Making a living is always a challenging element of creative work - you’ve received a few grants; how has this type of funding been useful to you? Do you find there are a lot of financial options available, or have you had to take commercial work or non-photographic jobs? How do you balance earning with maintaining your practice?
AM: The grants I’ve received have been helpful financially and have really motivated me to keep going. But there aren’t a lot of financial options available. I’m also a swimming teacher, so that’s my main income, and I’ve been really enjoying doing some weddings recently. I figured if I’m going to put so much work into being a photographer I may as well make exactly the work I want to make and not be restricted by having to make money from it.
YCS: Your series’ express an assured sophistication stemming from the images’ quiet ease. Does this (conversely) take a lot of effort? By what process do you access subjects? Do you see them this way as you’re working, or does the composition evolve from surrounding research or subsequent editing?
AM: Yes. I tend to spend a lot of time shooting spontaneously and a lot of time researching. If the work is about a specific place I spend a lot of time in that place. My ideas develop through this process but particularly through shooting. I balance this very open approach with a long process of editing but usually by the time I’m editing I’ve firmed up my ideas about what I’m aiming for. I experiment putting images together and seeing how it works. I tend to put them up on the wall for a long time. I’ve always been very intuitive about this but recently i’m trying to be more considered about the intricacies of juxtapositions. It varies a lot. As I do more work the projects take longer because they are more complex.
AM: I’m definitely a regular submitter. I’m getting a bit better at judging what it’s worth submitting to. You can waste a lot of energy on applications otherwise.
The Jerwood Award was the best possible thing that could have happened in the year after graduating. Many other opportunities sprang from that. Troika have also been a fantastic support.
YCS: Which of the final platforms for your work interests you the most – wall display, book publications, or online – and why? How do you see this element evolving in the future?
AM: I guess the final output depends on what’s best for each individual project. I’m working on a book for the first time now. I’m starting a project that will involve bringing lots of different elements together so I’ll eventually have to find some clever way to do that. I guess it’s also worth bearing in mind that most people are going to see my work online, even if I’ve designed it to be printed huge and hung on the wall.
YCS: You’re currently studying for an MA in Photography at London College of Communication. What is it about a Post Graduate degree that makes it a useful step for you, and why did you select that institution? What do you intend for it to bring to your practice longer term? What further strategies do you use to develop your work?
AM: I think i’d just been working away for four years without questioning deeply what I was doing and why, and without an extensive awareness of where I fit in to current photography practice. It’s good to be in a critical environment where you constantly have to explain yourself to other people. I probably didn’t give the selection of the institution enough thought, I just thought their approach would suit me and the tutors were good and I wanted to be in London.
To develop my work I just do a lot of it. I tend to make progress while actually taking photographs. I also research a lot and make a lot of notes. I particularly find it useful to write down my thinking as I go along. I show my work to a lot of people. But mostly it’s just about putting time aside to work and to think.
Image Copyright belongs to Alice Myers.