Above: Detail from an image in the Spectres of Place exhibition by James Hughes, which ran at PLACE in September
Following on from the success of his Spectres of Place exhibition at PLACE in September, James Hughes speaks to A-level Art student Ellen Warwick and answers some questions about the influences, techniques and interests to be seen in his powerful photography.
1. What inspired you to get involved in photography?
I always loved art and history, but was frustrated at being unable to render well through paint, etc. I think in the end photography found me and we have been together ever since - eclipsing the original frustrations and sustaining me through a never-ending journey.
2. For how long have you been involved in photography?
Approx 30 years, a passion that is a way of life as much as a way of seeing.
3. Have any of your photographs been inspired by other artists/photographers? If so who are they and how did you come across them?
I have many who have shaped my work either directly or indirectly, indeed like life itself. I also include the equally important inspiration of poetry & literature and cinema & music as they all work together in forming my images, conscious/subconscious.
Artists: Caravaggio | Hopper | Schiele | Cornell | Keifer
Photographers: W. Evans | R. Frank | A. Sander | R. Pollidari | S. Vanfleteren
Poets: E.Pound | P.Neruda | C.Pavese | W.B.Yeats | S.Heaney | F.Pessoa
Writers: W.G.Sebald | H.Miller | G.Bachelard | D.H.Lawrence | Murakami
Cinema Directors: A.Tarkovsky | K.Kieslowski | B.Turr & the Camerawork of Christopher Doyle
Music: Bach through to Radiohead
They are all influences I’ve picked up on the journey and now they are the masters who sustain me along the way.
4. Have any of your photographs been altered in any way by using Photoshop or other programmes? If so explain alterations made.
Yes, I use Photoshop though more in a way to clean up my images and colour manage them, also to spot the negatives that need cleaning. I don’t add or manipulate them and try for authenticity in representing.
5. Have you ever tried recreating your photographs by the use of either paints or pencils?
No, though a few artists have with mixed results - for an example of one see: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=558429
6. What materials do you find most attractive and why? E.g. metal, wood, plastic or glass.
Wood for its tactile qualities and glass for its transparency and fluid qualities.
7. If you were to recreate an image of rust, which media would you be most interested in and why?
Photography as it’s my tool of choice for representing texture - maybe not so tactile a medium but the most realistic for me.
8. When you see images of rust how do they make you feel?
It conjures up feelings of industry and the trace of time, and on objects like household material culture it can represent past lives and nostalgia.
9. Do you prefer smooth surfaces or rough gritty ones and why?
Rough and gritty as it’s how I see reality, it’s also more interesting, as in not so boring.
10. What do you find most interesting about rusted and corroding surfaces?
Their texture and colour and the way rust has a life as in constant change.
Our thanks are due to both Ellen and James for their permission to reprint this interview.
More info: Spectres of Place in the PLACE Archives