World Photography Organisation Interview
I was recently interviewed by the World Photography Organisation in conjunction with The Fence project in Boston.
"The brightness of the day offers a lot that you can’t accomplish at night, and vice versa. So I continue to practice in the dark and share my progress along the way." - Remi Thornton
THE FENCE is a collaboration between United Photo Industries, Photo District News (PDN), Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Flash Forward Festival. Following a call for submissions, 30 jury members selected 40 artists whose work would be printed onto THE FENCE, a summer-long outdoor photographic exhibition stretching over 1000ft in length shown in Boston, Brooklyn, and Atlanta, USA. The aim of the project is to foster conversations and explore new thematic directions in photography.
We spoke to Remi to find out more:
Please tell us a little about yourself. What initially sparked your interest in photography and how was your journey to becoming a fine art photographer?
I became interested in photography while I was still in high school. I would mostly use my Canon Rebel to take pictures (with film!) while at parties or hanging out with friends. Yes, I was that guy. The tradition continued through college but it was always a hobby, something I would do to ease social anxiety and keep myself busy. Eventually that camera died and I never bothered to replace it given the expense.
However, a little later in life I found myself managing Landslides Aerial Photography, working with the amazingly talented Alex MacLean. Together, in the early 2000’s, Alex and I worked to transition his work from Analog to Digital, which meant embracing new technology and workflows. I was fascinated by the potential and decided to purchase a Digital SLR to pick up where I had left off years prior.
Your series “Nightscapes” has been selected to be part of the Fence 2014. Could you tell us a bit about the project, where you found the inspiration and how you approached it.
When the UPS driver arrived with my new camera (which was a Canon 10D), it was fairly late in the evening. Because I was curious and anxious to play with my new toy, I ventured out into the darkness with an old tripod. Needless to say, I became obsessed by the experience of shooting at night and I was really taken by the results.
Your “Nightscapes” are, as the name describes, a series of pictures taken after dark. – what is its intention and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I like to use the term “nightscape,” which is purposefully similar to the term “landscape,” as an attempt to normalize my preference of shooting after hours. The brightness of the day offers a lot that you can’t accomplish at night, and vice versa. So I continue to practice in the dark and share my progress along the way. I still have so much to explore, it’s impossible to know where it will take me.
Humans are non-existent in your nightscapes, is this intentional or simply a result of there not being any humans around when the images where taken?
It’s cause and effect. Yes, it’s pretty late when I’m out shooting and there are few people around. In turn, this vacantness adds to the mysterious and brooding feeling. A viewer of one of my photographs might ask, “Where is this place? Is there someone around the corner? What’s about to happen?” And they should because I’m thinking the same thing when I’m taking the photograph! For me, a successful image conveys to the viewer the same uneasiness that I felt while taking the photograph.
I’ve read you saying that ‘Every image in the series conveys a sense of anticipation: something doesn’t seem right; something is about to happen. Together, we’re on the cusp of witnessing an event, which could be odd, frightening or even supernatural.’ I like this description and get the same feeling when looking at them. They could almost look like still images from a movie. Have you had any supernatural or frightening experiences by shooting the series you would like to share with us?
There are some disadvantages to shooting at night. I’ve had my share of conversations with law enforcement officers and security guards, and I’ve been threatened verbally by inebriated groups of men on two occasions. Once I was out photographing near some woods that started about 5 feet from my position. There was some rustling deep within the trees, which was a bit disturbing, but tolerable. But within seconds the movement got closer and started moving faster and faster. I picked up my tripod mid-exposure, jumped in my car and never looked back. So I’ve learned to move as quickly as possible and exit before whatever is about to happen, happens.
How do you decide what / where to shoot?
Over time my photographs became much darker, literally and conceptually. I look for structures that have become pockets of light in a dark, if not black, setting. By keeping the exposures shorter, I am able to embrace the darkness of the scene, and by leaving unlit spaces underexposed, I think it created a heightened sense of mystery. These places are rare and hard to find, especially in an urban environment, so sometimes it take a lot of driving and rural exploration. Many times I go out shooting and come back with nothing.
How would you describe your photographic style?
Dark around the edges.
How much is post-production a part of your photography?
I shoot in RAW format so it’s a part of my process but I don’t think it’s part of the photography. Meaning, I do my best to keep the integrity of the scene. I may need to tweak the exposure levels and contrast at times, but that’s usually because I didn’t get the initial exposure correct, not because I want to make something more fantastic then it really is. I’d rather let the awkwardness of the setting really take centre stage, rather than the technique itself.
Which photographers have influenced/ inspired you?
My many talented friends in Boston and beyond inspire me. They make me feel unworthy of the “artist” title.
What is your next project? / What project are you currently working?
I’ve got some ideas…Follow me on Facebook! I want to mention that I’m working on a new web application for artists that work in print called, “Editions Count.” It will allow artists that work with editions to better manage their inventories and share available works with galleries and collectors in real time. It should be awesome and out soon, please sign up on editionscount.com to try it out when it’s released.
Any thing else you want to add?
I just wanted to thank Photoville for including me in the Boston Fence exhibition and all of the sponsors, including WPO. It’s great to have an opportunity to share and discuss my work.