How did you take on photography?
Growing up as a teenager and into my early 20’s, my main focus was on making music. I was obsessed with playing guitar and playing in bands, and that was definitely where I was putting all of my creative energy. It wasn't until a little later, around the age of 24, that I got my first camera and started playing around with photography. I did a little urban exploration stuff, shot some bands and live music, and started taking photos of my friends. I didn't really take it very seriously to begin with. When I was 25 I decided to quit my job, leave the bands I was playing in at the time, and go travelling around Southeast Asia with some friends. This was when I really started taking a lot of photos - being in new and beautiful places, and experiencing different cultures, It felt really natural for me to photograph everything around me. It didn’t take long before the whole trip became all about making images - I was making specific journeys to photograph places, getting up early to try and catch the best light, and taking lots of portraits. I actually ended up cutting the trip short as I wanted to return to England and use the money I had left over for a better camera, as I knew I wanted to pursue it more seriously.
What got me really excited about photography, and still does, is how it changes the way in which you interact with the world around you - it forces me to look a little harder and to explore and nurture my curiosity. There are so many amazing people and places in the world, and photography gives me a reason to seek them out.
Did you study Photography or are you self-taught?
When I got back from travelling I decided I wanted to study photography, so I went to Leeds College Of Art to begin a BA. I really threw myself into the first year of the course, and got a lot from it. I spent that year delving into photography books, assisting local photographers and reading anything I could get my hands on about theory and the history of photography. During that time I started getting work, and decided to leave the course to relocate to London. Since then my development has been largely self-directed, but I’ve been lucky enough to have some great people around me who have taught me a lot about photography and the industry.
"Burgess Park” is rightly celebrated as a fresh, candid and powerful set of images shot on a specific area of London. Could you briefly tell us what fascinated you about Burgess Park and what is the aim of this series?
The project came together in the summer of 2018, after having moved to the area the previous year. As a means of exploring my new neighbourhood I began making work around Southeast London and quite quickly saw something special in the park. It was upon taking two photographs in particular that I saw an opportunity to build a body of work. One captured a young girl named Shantelle, the other, groups of friends and family gathered around BBQs. The images, filled with a sense of optimism, represent the park’s community, but also something much bigger: togetherness.
While Burgess Park is a portrait of one community, it, in turn, communicates something much more universal. Not only is it about the importance of community, wherever you are, but it advocates for diversity and multiculturalism within those communities. The virtue of the park lies in the people who visit it. It is a space that facilitates the coming together of ideas, cultures, and beliefs; it allows people to feel part of something and to belong somewhere. Although quiet, the series is a subtle backlash to the increasingly polarising political rhetoric surrounding national identity – ideals which would see communities such as these changed forever.
How long did you spend working on the project and did anyone helped you during the editing process?
The work came together, piece by piece, between June and September of 2018. That summer saw some of the hottest months on record which made for plenty of great opportunities to spend time there and chip away at the project. No one has helped me with the editing process for this work, I’ve just selected the images that resonated the most with me and best represented the park and my experience of it.
Is there one photo you couldn’t take (for whatever reason) that you’d like to describe to us?
When making a project that is heavily centred around portraiture, and requires participation from the sitter, the final selection is always comprised of the people who said ‘yes’ - the people who wanted to participate in the project and felt comfortable in front of the camera. Whilst making a lot of my work, there are always some people who choose not to be involved. Although this can sometimes be frustrating in the moment, it’s something I have to respect, and I can always trust in the fact that the final work is born from a purely collaborative process.
What are you working on now?
I like to work quite loosely with my personal projects, often just exploring and letting ideas come to me slowly. Although I’ll be making more work around London this year, I’ll mainly be focusing on travel and just enjoying the process of exploring interesting places and making images. Something that really fascinates me about photography is when you put yourself in a situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen, and just navigate it picture by picture.
What would it be your dream project?
Based on how I like to work, it’s actually quite a difficult question to answer. All I can say is that, as I continue to make images, I would like to be increasingly adventurous with the places and process in which I make work, and hopefully a ‘dream project’ might come from it.
Are you inspired by any artist/practitioner which somehow influenced your views on photography and your style?
There’s so much great work being made at the minute, I find myself being inspired by a really broad variety of photographers and approaches to the medium. A few that have really stuck with me over the years, however, are Christopher Anderson, Gregory Halpern and Paul Graham. I find myself going back to their work time and time again, and always finding something new and interesting. I really enjoy discovering new work through photo books, and one of my recent favourites has been the amazing monograph by Deana Lawson - her portraits are just beautiful, and the forward by Zadie Smith is an amazing read.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS are COPYRIGHT of MAX MIECHOWSKI