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Anthony Carr, 2020

As a continuation in our Interview Series, we interviewed Anthony Carr as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. He has provided us with a window into his current practice and how he has repositioned with lockdown restrictions.

1- Who are you? Introduce yourself

My name is Anthony Carr and I’m a British artist living in Canada. Having lived in London for over 10 years, my wife and I wanted a change of scene and moved to Victoria, on Vancouver Island in spring 2019.

2- What is your artistic practice?- What drove you to work as you are now? How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

My practice is centred around experimental photography and sculpture, with the boundary between the two blurred at times. I have always been interested in the ‘thingness’ or ‘object-ness’ of photography, of the film itself and of course the photographic print and in the ways in which to emphasize this haptic quality. This could be simply removing it from behind the protective glass of a frame, to folding and disrupting the surface. I’m seeking ways the photograph can take on new form and reading, and how photography and sculpture can combine, where one informs the other and vice versa. 

I formally studied printmaking which also included photography, and I realised it was the time spent in the darkroom, developing and printing, that I enjoyed as much as composing and shooting pictures. I studied at a time when digital photography was still in its infancy and this desire to work with something physical has remained a part of my practice ever since.

I build many of the cameras I use and building these cameras is as much a part of the work as the images they collect, although the cameras themselves are seldom shown. Each camera is designed with a purpose in mind, to capture a specific type of image, time of day, subject matter or simply to satisfy my curiosity. I embrace a DIY approach and have developed an appreciation for lo-fi and alternative photographic techniques over the years, in particular pinhole photography. 

Whichever capture apparatus I am using, I look for situations where transformations and chance can occur in-camera. I am fascinated by how light manifests on film and how its traces can be observed over different durations of time.

The time in lockdown has given me a chance to slow down and spend more time noticing things immediately around me. Due to my recent relocation to Canada, my studio is our spare room, which became my sanctuary during lockdown. I was very fortunate to be able to continue making work, and have the space to remain creative. The enforced time at home during the last few months pushed me to become more resourceful (in fear I wouldn’t be eligible for relief funds) and I started growing edible plants from the seeds in my food. Seeds I would usually throw away. The Canadian government in fact acted quickly to the virus and I was able to claim some money but it the beginning there was very real uncertainty. 

This need for more self-sufficiency led to a new project investigating the photographic possibilities of plants and in particular the pepper. I also began adopting a more holistic approach to my photographic practice; experimenting with the pepper as camera, organic developer and subject. Alongside reducing toxicity and introducing more sustainability into my practice, in the spirit of re-use, recycle and repurpose.  Now seems a perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature and reassess what impact my artist practice is having.

3- What are you currently working on? (virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work)

My investigations into the creative photographic potential of peppers continued for much of the lockdown. And what started as curiosity, has developed into a multifaceted project encompassing all the paraphernalia associated with the growing of indoor plants. I’ve been harvesting the peppers to be used in a series of photographs cataloguing each of them as a different ‘specimen’. Where each photographic negative will be developed in organic pepper tea developer made from old pepper plants. I’ve turned sticky fly traps (bought to control an infestation of fungus gnats) into gridded collages which I’m photographing and the fly trap stakes will eventually be reconfigured into small sculptures. All of these elements have a connection to a general theme in my practice, namely our relationship with the Moon and what lies beyond our atmosphere. For example, the fly trap grids once photographed, resemble views of the cosmos, whilst the pepper ‘specimen’ images take inspiration from the cataloguing of lunar rock samples collected during the Apollo missions.

Another project I’ve been working on during this time at home, is a collaboration between myself and a friend and fellow artist in London. While our movements were restricted, we decided to instigate a postal art piece where we take turns shooting a photograph and then send the camera over the Atlantic for the other to then use. The aim is to eventually record 47 different images onto the same piece of film. Again, this piece involves our nearest celestial neighbour in that every photograph taken will be of the Moon and by the end of the project the camera will have travelled the same distance as that between the centre of the Earth and the Moon during a Supermoon.

4- What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?

The projects I’ve just described that began during lockdown will definitely keep me occupied for a while to come. I anticipate the postal art piece taking a few years to complete and am thinking of other longer-term projects to run alongside existing ideas. Rather than being a time of interruption and frustration, I have actually found being at home and having to reflect and adapt actually quite liberating, creatively speaking. The last few months have turned into a period of intense thinking about my practice and making art, the likes I haven’t had since back in art school.

With lots of new photographs taken, and more new material to work from, it also hastened the need for me to set myself up properly with a home darkroom, which I had been considering since arriving in a city with limited photographic provision. And so, I’ve been sourcing equipment, 2nd hand where possible, and am in the process of constructing a temporary darkroom that I’m able to install quickly in my bathroom whenever required.

5- Where can we find you? Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.

The best way to see a broad selection of my work is to visit my website www.anthonycarr.co.uk which I try to keep as up to date as possible. 

I recently took part in an online exhibition organised by Fabrica gallery in Brighton. Quiet Revelations sought to discover what we were learning about ourselves during this time of self-isolation. You can see my contribution amongst lots of amazing work at http://quiet.fabrica.org.uk/contributions

And I’m also in an exhibition later this month, which has been jointly organised by Lumen art collective and The Artist Expedition Society, based in the UK and Australia respectively. The show includes artworks inspired by our personal connections to the night sky and will be presented on the Lumen website www.lumenstudios.co.ukand as part of The Desert Festival at The Earth Sanctuary in the central Australian bush. I made a new moving image piece specially for the event on a homemade lunar landscape theme, inspired by a trip I made many moons ago to the Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve near Alice Springs.

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