In the studio: Georgina Campbell

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-01 at 9.29.22 PM(1)1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? 

I started out planning to be a film maker and realized I prefer working alone rather than waiting around for others to get their part of the job done. I had to do still photography as part of my course at university and realized I enjoyed it more because you can just get on with it. I am from Australia and I am answering your questions in Iceland about work I did in Russia. I have always taken photographs and I consider being an artist to be my main job but I have always had to have a real job at the same time. I eventually trained as a teacher, partly so I could travel – I moved to London (where lots of Aussies are teachers) so I could try to see more of Europe and work on my art in a more stimulating environment.

 

2. Please describe your work and your creative process.

Because teaching really takes up so much mental space and time I ended up not getting much photographic work done on a daily basis. I am constantly thinking about ideas and ways of working but at this point in time, I aim to travel to places with the intention of photographing the places. I do this mostly in the form of artist residencies. The work you see here is the result of an artist residency in St Petersburg, Russia earlier this year. I was there for a month and I really had no ideas about what I would do there or what would inspire me. I just wandered around and shot lots of different things. It was very new for me to be in a city but free to shoot. I live in London, an amazing city, but I don’t feel free there as much because I am always on my way to work or elsewhere. I know that seems crazy but I just feel different when I am in daily life mode versus artist mode.

 

3.Majority of your work seems to be related to travel and “daily life/routine.” How you capture life as a local but as a visitor?

When I am traveling or doing an artist residency somewhere my job becomes to do nothing but take photos or create in some capacity. I often end up just documenting daily life or scenes of an ordinary nature because as a visitor its all new to me. A street sign or building may seem very uninteresting to a local person who sees it everyday, but to me, everything is new and different and a lot of photographers in particular feel this way. Most places are captured or documented in the most compelling way through the eyes of a foreigner – the things we notice about a place are often the most mundane for the local but prove most fascinating to outsiders. While I was in Russia there were many examples of that – things looking very much like any other European city but also like a parallel universe at the same time. Things being slightly magical such as snow (which is still magical to me being from Australia) really appeals to me. Like seeing snow flakes so large and perfect you could see their detail with the naked eye, architectural details and just the way nature makes itself present even in the urban landscape – bird footprints in the snow, big winter clouds competing for space with the industrial smoke clouds on the horizon and most fascinating to me, the ancient glass windows in many of the buildings create these magical polarizing effects through the camera lens creating a view you can truly only see through photography.

 

4. What internal and external factors affect your choices on what to capture?

I do just photograph whatever catches my eye most of the time. I do always hope to find something with that element of magic by which I mean things that can only be really seen through the camera lens – lighting and effects that are a result of reality and the camera working together. On a more practical level, however, time and weather of course affect my choices. I have done a lot of work in Iceland in both winter and summer. I find in summer, ironically, I don’t get enough of the right kind of light and in winter it can be painfully cold to be outside for long stretches. In Russia I found it very cold but if I’m really getting inspired I just keep going until I cant feel my toes or fingers!

 

5. What do you want your work to say or do?

I think my work is ultimately biographical, it shows where I am physically and some might argue there is a hint of my inner psyche laid out in my images too. All images are viewed through the filter of the viewer’s own experiences, for better or worse, so people can read the images however they want. I have always said I am simply pointing out things that take my fancy and photographing them is a way of saying “look at that!”

 

6. How has technology changed your photographic work process in a way you did not expect?

I was strictly old school analogue for ages. I use a lot of Holgas, Lomo cameras and home-made cameras but I switched to digital practical purposes when i started traveling more often. Digital is easier when you don’t have access to darkrooms and film processing equipment. I miss the darkroom but digital allows you to do everything easily on the go and experiment without breaking the bank. I also do use a lot of other technologies in my work. I’ve gone back to film making in a small way now that digital cameras are so high quality. You don’t need a team of people anymore to make video works so I have been able to experiment without pressure and material costs. I do a lot of coding and computer related stuff too so technology has allowed me to try other things and in a funny way, get back to the things I was first interested in which was the photograph as object, building cameras – almost as functional sculptures and making moving images in the form of video works and gifs.

 

7. Which current art world trends are you following?

I try to avoid trends in art – if it’s a trend then it’s probably not good art! I don’t even use filters on Instagram! I think about this kind of thing a lot though, I often find myself inspired by new materials or ways of presenting work but I try to ensure that my work and the way I present it has some kind of link – I don’t think its useful to use a new printing process or presentation medium just because its available and the latest thing.

 

9. What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

Actually getting work done! There is never enough time or money. Like most artists, I have to have a “real” job and it takes up way too much time and energy on a regular basis. Doing genuinely good work that I am happy with also is a challenge and then getting that work seen by the right people. I wish I knew how to make that happen but I’m working on it.

 

10. Where do you feel art is going?

Art isn’t going anywhere! Its here to stay!

 

11. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

A well known photographic artist I knew said once that if random viewers told her that they really liked her work then she knew it wasn’t good enough. She meant that if too many people liked the work enough then it wasn’t really breaking new ground, it was not challenging enough. We both agreed that we didn’t want to make art that matches the couch!

 

12. If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

I really don’t know! A time traveller – just a generic behind the scenes one!

 

View more of Georgina’s work here.

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