It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for an Artist Spotlight! If you are new to the blog, this is a feature, where we spotlight photographers and artist that are inspiring others with there instant film work. While we try to provide our readers with a new spotlight each week, I’ll be the first to admit we have been lacking in this department lately. Feedback from the community are the best way to make these spotlights happen, so if you would like to be featured or know of someone you would like to see on the blog, drop us a line. We love putting people in the spotlight!
by Phoebe Barrett
Today we are featuring Gareth Weston. Gareth is another photographer that reached out to us couple weeks ago and sent us several examples of his work. It only took one look and we knew that we wanted to see more and find out more about the person behind the images. Please be sure to click the links below and show him some social media love.
• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.
My name is Gareth Weston and I am a self-taught British instant photographer. I have been able to call the centre of England my home whilst doing my best to explore other landscapes and ways of living, but a strong sense of wanderlust, partially born through the experiences of photography, is pulling me away as I seek to find a new location to call home.
Having trained as an illustrator and having practiced and been exhibited on numerous occasions as an artist, I have since worked as a high school teacher of Art & Design for the past 3 years with the intention of passing on my experiences, enthusiasm and skills, however I have recently left the profession due to a number of personal reasons and a sense of disillusionment. I currently find myself in the fortunate and exciting position to be able to create my own path that is mostly free from ties and setbacks, very open to travel, exploration and adventure and with creativity and self-expression acting as key motivations and core objective of that ongoing journey.
How did you get into instant photography?
In the recent past I have encountered a series of tumultuous events and heartache that created an overwhelmingly dark period within my life that I had not encountered previously. As an admittedly emotional person, the lows that were experienced were stark and shocking and conveyed the extremities of human emotion. Great personal difficulty was encountered in finding a path amidst the confusion, change and doubt, and photography provided me with the ideal artistic means to self-medicate and therapies and to find both enlightenment and joy to re-build upon, inspired partially by the personal need for re-invention and change. Previous encounters with instant photography had made me aware of the medium and its many nuances, and the gifting of an sx-70 allowed easy access to the format. As a diverse creative that has always enjoyed experimenting with different fields and processes, photography presented itself as something that had always appealed to me but that had never been embraced. My camera and its processes presented itself to me as the ideal outlet to re-discover both the world and myself, to capture the beauty and unseen moments of serenity that I had overlooked and to explore my psyche and connection to the wider world through carefully considered and sometimes spontaneous documentation. I have now been shooting for just a few months and occupy recognition for the essential value that photography has provided me with thus far, and I feel a deep bond for the voice and experience that it offers me that I am surprised I was not able to encounter earlier within my life.
What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
When shooting I most often choose to use a Polaroid SX-70 Model 2, complete with original Polaroid ever ready case. The action of the bellows opening when unfolding, the aesthetic of its shape and the limited but essential adjustments all combine to make a pleasurable and magical experience. As a tactile person I enjoy being able to handle it with ease and to experiment with its variables and controls to create different and sometimes unpredictable results. It is the camera that creates the strongest reaction amongst strangers that I meet and photograph and amongst friends that I allow to test it out.
What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
As a user of 2 spectras, a 600 and an sx-70, it is the SLR 680 that I see as being the next item in my collection. Having shot with it a number of times now and having been impressed by both its appearance and performance in certain light conditions, I know it will merely be a matter of time until I own one and make it a regular within my bag.
What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
My ideal set-up at the moment is an sx-70 fitted with a neutral density filter using 600 type film. For me this creates the colors, tones and painterly effect that I seek, particularly when shooting outdoors and in warm light which I mostly tend to. I do not look for high-definition images, pixel perfect colors and tones, I instead prefer the charm of an image that cannot be recreated via any other means and blends hues and areas of light into gentle and perfect, soft gradients. If I were to desire to create ultra-realistic images it is not a medium that I would be working within and I find the lo-fi nature of the images and equipment to occupy a romance and personality that appeals to me greatly. I enjoy using photography as a means of expression and exploration, as an art form rather than as a technicality to be mastered.
How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
All of my images are created using instant film and I feel no desire to date or in the foreseeable future for this to change. Whilst my background in both art and design do allow me to occupy the skills to incorporate a wide variety of mediums and techniques to create a mixed-media outcome, to date this has been mostly limited to painting and drawing upon instant images. I have the great fortune to be able to shoot most days and as such the workflow is close to constant and allows a rapid level of experimentation and improvement. I suspect that in the near future as the list of intended experiments and subjects grows, a variety of other mediums will be incorporated to compliment instant photography.
How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)
When creating work a central theme has been present throughout all my years of development irrelevant of the medium whether that is vector illustration, painting, installation, drawing, animation or centrally instant photography. A life-long sense of alienation and of being an outsider has motivated me to explore my own subconscious and my connection to the wider world. Through instant photography, and as inspired by recent personal events, I have found this to be particularly essential. Capturing moments of serendipity, both within meetings and within nature that I occupy an extremely close bond to, allows me to be reminded of the often overlooked beauty of existence and to establish a series of keepsakes and memories. I enjoy to romanticize to smaller things and to create images that convey my emotion to that particular moment, place of individuality. This is complimented by my use of self-portraiture and portraiture in which individuals who have touched upon my life and express a sentiment of similar feelings are shot to celebrate their differences and explore their individual senses and experiences of individuality or isolation. I want people to be able to celebrate and find strength and pride within their differences and quirks and for self-love and happiness to make the world a better place.
Any personal projects we should know about?
Since beginning my journey with instant photography I have been working upon a platform entitled REV project (revproject.org). This simple website holds a number of portraits of makers and inspirational creative’s, with a particular focus upon photography, from practitioners of a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Each portrait utilizes an image, couple by my own artwork, and an interview documenting personal motivation and inspirations.
The intent of this platform was twofold. Firstly to create a catalogue of inspirational stories that highlight the differing paths, experiences, difficulties and philosophies of people of different backgrounds and lifestyles in attempting to pursue their dreams and passions. All of those featured are highly dedicated, and their enthusiasm is infectious and highlight what can potentially be achieved with belief and determination within fields that are difficult to find success within. I have intended for this to allow their work to not only be celebrated, but to allow others who have similar dreams to find self-belief and potential ideas. The second purpose of this process has been to provide myself with the self-belief and recognition of my own personal creative journey, and to give me the energy to work tirelessly towards self-expression and passion, that I had not previously occupied.
I have also been working hard in creating an international instant image maker collective entitled Pay It Forward Collective. This cohort consists of a range of talented and diverse instant image makers from across the world that I personally approached to work on a number of creative conceptual experiments. These experiments will not only explore new concepts and create new work to be shared and celebrated that will be unique in both its content and theory, but will also allow the image makers involved the opportunity to make new connection, make new friends and experience the difficulties and challenges of working with a wide variety of talented and passionate creatives. The film community is a closely knit one and I believe this establishes a further opportunity to find strength in numbers and to work effectively as a supportive unit.
Outside of these two key personal projects I continue to experiment continuously with instant photography and to compulsively make work, particularly within the area of portraits constantly looking to create a new series, the most recent of which is Rara Avis (Rare Bird) an ongoing series of thematic portraits utilizing nature and props.
What other photographers do you look up too?
Roger Ballen and his exploration of the nightmarish and dark subconscious and human psyche has offered me endless inspiration and connection and has thematically provided me with significant energy for the future development of work. This has been reinforced by my fortunate ability to work with him personally as a part of REV project in which a great deal of insight was provided into his practice, journey and personality. Ophelie Rondeau and her exploration of sexuality and femininity captivates and excites me each time I observe her work. I am fortunate to be working with many of my favorite instant image makers including the outlandish and fabulous Kat Toronto, the breathtakingly beautiful and achingly romantic Simone Carollo and a close personal friend of mine Phoebe Barrett. Her work in particular presents a romanticism, beauty and organic connection that compliments my personal beliefs, ethic and motivations and creates a visual world of community, happiness, love and overwhelming warmth and joy which is the kind of world that I hope to live within.
What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
Unfortunately instant photography is an expensive pursuit, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, whilst this does create the benefit of requiring a more considered and careful approach that establishes a deeply reflective and analytical photographic vision, it does make learning and trial and error more difficult. My primary suggestion would be to remain patient, both in terms of when shooting and when becoming frustrated at initial outcomes, they will undoubtedly improve with cyclical reflection over time but many duds will be created along the way. I would also suggest looking at and engaging with as wide a variety of images and image makers as possible through the range of platforms available, the sheer variety and passion of the associated image makers will establish confidence through feedback and engagement and an almost limitless range of ideas to pursue.
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?
My central inspiration has come from a combination of my life experiences and a compulsive need for expression and self exploration. Existential contemplations have been a part of my mentality for as long as I can remember and is something that continues to grow and be built upon. Creating allows me to find my place within the world, to connect with other and to understand myself and others more effectively whilst observing beauty and romanticism. The process of creation allows me to take a mental break from my surroundings and my thoughts and gives me temporary relief from other stresses. Other individuals that I converse with and meet add to this drive, and inspire me through their enthusiasm and unique visions. There are like-minded individuals within the community and it is possible to find and engage with them, and the energy that they can give you can be explosive and exciting.