MOD­EST MINIMALISM

Ma­reea Ve­gas talks to Marc Thomp­son about find­ing pur­pose in the pedes­trian through his lat­est se­ries of spa­tial shots

New Zealand D-Photo - - Q & A -

A beau­ti­ful sense of calm and space still em­anates from Marc Thomp­son’s me­thod­i­cally com­posed im­ages. I last spoke with the White­cliffe grad­u­ate two years ago, when his work was very much in­spired by fu­tur­ism and the ty­pol­ogy of in­dus­trial build­ings. Thomp­son has spent many of his days since then abroad, trav­el­ling from New Zealand to Ice­land and down to Spain, in­clud­ing most places in be­tween. I caught up with him over What­sApp to find out in which ways his prac­tice has changed, how travel has af fected his work, and why he has moved from large-for­mat ana­logue to dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy.

MA­REEA VE­GAS: One of the things that in­ter­ests me about your new works is the move to a por­trait crop. Could you talk about the rea­sons for this?

MARC THOMP­SON: This is mainly an adap­ta­tion for the way in which the work is viewed. For the most part, I post my im­ages on­line, and the ma­jor­ity of the work is seen through In­sta­gram. I’ve found that a por­trait crop not only works well for the en­vi­ron­ment that the work is viewed in, but it has also cre­ated some in­ter­est­ing com­po­si­tions when in­ves­ti­gat­ing a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject mat­ter. I was find­ing that when I used a land­scape crop, the things which were mak­ing the sub­ject mat­ter in­ter­est­ing (and giv­ing it that slight touch of am­bi­gu­ity) were get­ting lost some­how. I felt I was los­ing con­trol of the sub­ject mat­ter, by leav­ing in as­pects that would ul­ti­mately clut­ter the shot.

MV: Has your re­la­tion­ship to struc­ture and the ex­plo­ration of your prac­tice through it changed in any way over the last cou­ple of years?

MT: I guess that I have, in the past, mostly fol­lowed a to­po­graphic way of pho­tograph­ing scenes, and, re­cently, I’ve prob­a­bly started to bend the strict method­ol­ogy be­hind that way of shoot­ing. I think ‘am­bi­gu­ity’ and the ‘mun­dane’ might be ideas that are creep­ing in more in more. I find the ma­jor­ity of these works end up be­ing crops of ar­eas or com­po­si­tions which might gen­er­ally be over­looked, but [that] there ends up be­ing some re­ally in­ter­est­ing things to be found within them. Fu­tur­ism and au­ton­omy [were to­gether] … al­ways some­thing which in­formed my past work, and I think there are still hints of that presently, though prob­a­bly a more gen­eral sense of am­bi­gu­ity within a struc­ture (line/ shape), with a min­i­mal­ist con­struc­tion, has be­come some­thing that I seek out more and more.

MV: How has your own travel in­formed these works?

MT: Trav­el­ling has been a huge in­flu­ence on my prac­tice. I ini­tially wanted to doc­u­ment my time over­seas in a fairly broad sense, but, as time went on, it be­came more re­fined. This was also in part due to dis­cov­er­ing some great on­line com­mu­ni­ties of pho­tog­ra­phers, such as @lekkerzine, @pa­per­jour­nal­mag, and @rsamin­i­mal on In­sta­gram, which are tack­ling sim­i­lar sub­ject mat­ters. The use of hash­tags and tag­ging to get in­volved in the on­line com­mu­nity has opened my work up to fel­low pho­tog­ra­phers, and vice versa. I’m not en­tirely sure how my prac­tice has gone from a Fu­tur­is­tic-type ap­proach to a more min­i­mal one, but there is def­i­nitely still an un­der­tone of Fu­tur­ism within some of the work.

MV: How im­por­tant is it for you to de­fine your prac­tice?

MT: I think it’s quite im­por­tant to be able to de­fine your prac­tice in some way or an­other, be it through sub­ject mat­ter or ap­proach. Per­son­ally, be­ing able to de­fine my prac­tice gives me more di­rec­tion and a way to iden­tify and con­nect more with a broader com­mu­nity. These are things that help more and more when pre­dom­i­nantly pub­lish­ing work on­line and in­ter­act­ing with on­line com­mu­ni­ties.

MV: Did you still shoot ana­logue film while trav­el­ling?

MT: While abroad, I shot ev­ery­thing on dig­i­tal, us­ing ei­ther my Panasonic Lumix or just my phone. I would have loved to have taken a 5x4 large-for­mat camera with me, but that just wasn’t pos­si­ble with the type of trav­el­ling I was do­ing. I still ap­proached my sub­ject mat­ter with an ana­logue sense though, as in, slow and me­thod­i­cally, like I was shoot­ing on film. I guess I picked up this method­ol­ogy from shoot­ing lots of large-for­mat work, and it con­tin­ues to carry over, no mat­ter what de­vice or for­mat I’m us­ing.

MV: In your pre­vi­ous im­ages, you were work­ing with a rapidly chang­ing New Zealand land­scape and per­haps men­tally pro­cess­ing these changes through the work. In what ways are you widen­ing your lens now?

MT: I’ve def­i­nitely broad­ened my sub­ject mat­ter since be­ing placed in dif­fer­ent land­scapes. I still have an un­der­ly­ing in­ter­est in ar­chi­tec­ture, and I was spoiled for when it came to trav­el­ling through Europe. I think there are dif­fer­ent as­pects of each land­scape or struc­ture that ini­tially at­tract me to them, so large sec­tions of my time trav­el­ling would be spent seek­ing these struc­tures out, or at least rec­og­niz­ing them when I came across them.

MV: I love the colour pal­ette and how it ties the en­tire se­ries to­gether. Did the idea evolve, or was the in­ten­tion al­ways there?

MT: That’s some­thing which is def­i­nitely an ev­er­p­re­sent as­pect of the sub­ject mat­ter in my work, and I think it might po­ten­tially be in­formed by my re­la­tion­ship to struc­ture, even though, ini­tially, I was more in­ter­ested in the face­less fu­tur­is­tic as­pect of these build­ings. It seems that all of these ar­eas, which are made for prac­ti­cal­ity, will al­ways carry these strik­ing bits of colour, mainly yel­low. They are ob­vi­ously there for a prac­ti­cal safety rea­son, but they have an un­in­ten­tional aes­thetic beauty and com­plex­ity to them. It’s a great prac­ti­cal func­tion that works so nicely to piece the gen­eral monochro­matic tones of the works to­gether.

MV: Does your mov­ing-im­age work carry the same con­cepts as your still pho­tog­ra­phy?

MT: With my mov­ing-im­age work, it tends to sit more on the com­mer­cial side. While at univer­sity I had a few at­tempts at con­vert­ing my ideas to a mov­ing-im­age set­ting (mak­ing them all very quiet, and quite de­void of any move­ment) but I have never been 100-per­cent sat­is­fied with the re­sults, though it’s def­i­nitely some­thing that I think about quite a lot when tak­ing pho­tos. I guess, ul­ti­mately, I as­so­ciate mov­ing im­age with dynamic cuts and move­ment, so when work­ing with this par­tic­u­lar sub­ject mat­ter, I find that this is miss­ing. It’s pos­si­ble that maybe my sub­ject mat­ter works well in a still-pho­tog­ra­phy sense, but not so much in a mov­ing-im­age sense. Hope­fully, I’ll stum­ble upon some­thing that will work well and help to de­velop the sub­ject mat­ter fur­ther, through mov­ing im­age.

MV: Fi­nally, where would we find Marc now at 8pm on a Mon­day night?

MT: I start an on­line Te Reo course this month through Te Wa¯nanga o Raukawa, so I’ll prob­a­bly be study­ing.

MARC’S

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