Interview #60: Sid Black
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
Sid Black: I don't, and never have studied photography, but I'd like to in the future. I guess I just learned by taking a hell of a lot of photos wherever I went. That and great little web communities on Flickr/Tumblr that let me talk to and meet people who are as obsessed as I am.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/current location have an affect on your photography?
SB: I live in Oxford, England. I guess it's a very pretty place, but when you're stuck here for years it gets a bit bland and samey. I'd like to think that's made me look harder for subjects to photograph, and made me more attentive and observant, able to look past the typical 'pretty buildings' photographs that are all too tempting to take here. I think it's also forced me to look further into different experimental techniques, which is great.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
SB: Yoghurt, muesli, passion fruit and honey. (You asked me on a good day, normally it'd be a lot less healthy sounding).
CUS: What makes a good image?
SB: These questions are tough. I think this is something I couldn't ever really put into words, I guess the most important thing is the subject and how you capture it. It has to be.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
SB: Good cheese, good tomatoes, good bread... food? Can I encompass all those into good food? My bed, the outdoors, a few awesome people and music.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
SB: This is going to sound vomit-inducingly hippy, but seriously, the earth is incredible. Trees are fucking incredible. Have you seen how big trees can get? and how awesome flowers are? and how eternal and calming the sea is? And waterfalls? They're a thing. A wonderful thing. And all this stuff just happened. I'll never tire of nature. Nature is amazing and I want to see it all.
CUS: What is it about landscape that you find interesting to photograph?
SB: I find everything interesting to photograph, I just happen to be terrified of people, so I guess I'm drawn to landscape the most.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
SB: I mean of course everyone can be a photographer, and that's great! Whether everyone can be a good, or successful photographer is a different matter. I think digital photography makes the art of photography a lot more accessible, but for me, digital photography will never come close to looking as good as film. Just like how CDs will never sound as good as records and how e-readers will never replace books. Film just has an inexplicable, analogue quality that just makes it so much better. I barely ever have to edit my pictures on film but whenever I shoot digital it tends to take a lot of correcting in Photoshop before I get a presentable image.
CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…)
SB: Without the internet my mum and my friends would be the only people who know about my photos. The internet rules. Sure it's saturated with a load of awful, over-edited pictures from overzealous teenagers, but that was me once (hey, it pretty much still is), but it's such an incredible platform for sharing, my photos have been seen by hundreds of thousands of eyes on nearly every continent and that's… mind-blowing, and something I could (probably) never have hoped for had I been born a few decades earlier.
CUS: How do you differentiate "art" photography and "non-art" photography?
SB: I've spent a while mulling over this question and I still don't know how to answer it. I would say it's up to the photographer to decide whether it's art or not. Even if people viewing it think it's awful or don't understand it, if the creator (or appropriator, in the case of found photos) wants to call it art, then it is. See: Warhol's brillo boxes or Duchamp's fountain.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in "the flesh" to be fully appreciated and experienced?
SB: I think almost any photograph will look better in the flesh, on nice paper, on a wall or (even better) in a book which you can hold, feel, flick through, smell... nothings going to beat that. But that doesn't illegitimatize the web. Although there's a certain level of disconnect when viewing pictures on the internet, it's still a perfectly valid way of displaying photos, and I think you can appreciate a beautiful photograph even through a screen.
CUS: What are your plans for the fall?
SB: I'm going to be taking an art foundation course at Camberwell college of arts, hopefully developing lots of my own photos and taking lots more photos, but I'm most excited about getting to mess around in the dark rooms, play with different printing processes, experiment with developing, damaging and obscuring my photos, and seeing what other stuff I can do with chemicals and photo papers (hopefully lots of chemigrams).
CUS: What tips would you give to get out of a creative slump?
SB: I think you're asking the wrong guy. I haven't felt proud of anything I've made for a long while now, but I'm hoping I'll get back into the swing of things when I start at college. My friend who's sitting next to me right now says "Coffee, and keep creating even if you hate it."
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
SB: Don't be too picky about your work like I am, because you'll end up not wanting to upload anything you ever take. Reach out to people, don't wait for them to reach out to you. Whilst the internet is a great tool, a lot of important opportunities will only happen through sharing your work in real life.
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
SB: I really hope I can make it into a career, yeah! I think I'd feel incomplete doing anything else, or at least doing something that wasn't creative. I really hope I never end up shooting weddings, though. I couldn't imagine anything worse.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or exhibitions?
SB: Well I have a fair few rolls of film I need to upload from summer, but aside from that everything is quiet on the project/exhibition front. I've just been trying to enjoy summer and snap a few photos.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Fredrik Holmer, asks: As an artist, how do you manage your time?
SB: I don't tend to manage my time very well. About 90% of my time is procrastination, 5% worrying, and then the last 5% is actually getting stuff done. Cutting yourself off from the internet is the best thing you can do for your productivity.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
SB: Talk about your favourite camera. Where did you get it? Where have you been with it? Why is it your favourite?