Name: Ben Giles
Hometown: Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk, England)
Current town: Bury St Edmunds
Film and/or Digital?
Film, definitely. It just has a quality that a lot of digital photography doesn’t have; there are lots of reasons, but it mainly just looks nicer.
First camera: Disposables, Olympus 35 Sp, and I had a novelty cruise Ship camera.
Current camera: I’m sticking with the Olympus. It’s just grown on me, it’s so simple, and it has a rainbow strap.
How long have you been taking photographs?
I’ve been taking photos for a few years and cutting them up and collaging them even longer. The recent creations have all happened in the last year; it just became incredibly compulsive, and I like to think I got better as time went on.
Thoughts about first images ever taken, describe them?
I honestly can’t remember the first images ever taken; it was a hazy time around then. I remember them not being too serious, though. I remember taking an image of some penguins in the zoo, and one jumped in and the water splashed and the flash reflection all contributed to it looking like a galaxy–that’s the one I remember that I’ve always kept.
What do you see when you look at your work now?
Looking at my work can be hard. Sometimes I’m proud, sometimes I think it’s utter rubbish, sometimes I think it’s just average. Sometimes I’ll look at a piece and see something in there, a story and fragment and alternate reality; sometimes I just see paper stuck together or lots of lines I have drawn. Creating is a compulsion and sometimes I can get carried and be swept along in this snowball of creation and not realize where I have ended up. I don’t always stop and look at my own work until maybe a week later or even longer. Often I’ll fall into this dream-like state where I’ll just keep producing really quickly without a moment’s thought and without consciously knowing it’s there, in front of me.
Other times, I ponder for an hour and give up: I can be completely contradictory. Often cutting up a book is horrible, yet feels good, like a serial killer claiming its next victim or when you crumble up a flower in your hands. It’s this destruction, yet something new and recycled has been born out of it: I like that feeling, when a book ends up wearing its insides outside.
What do you hope others will see in your work, if anything? Their experience?
Escapism. I want people to look at a piece and see fragments of alternate worlds, hidden stories, obvious juxtapositions or ideas and other ones that are more subtle. I want people to look and feel with my artwork, to connect with an image and form their own meaning; I’m not telling people what to see.
Storm and Stress have been a big influence on my work, the band trip and stumble over themselves, each space between each note holds endless possibilities in the direction it will take next, the different parallel lives it could take. The music is just a blueprint to another song, and I like to think of my artwork as a blueprint to somebody’s memory or dream or thought: it’s a blueprint for the viewer to make their own decisions with and each one will be different. The band describe their music as a book without words or a pornography where nobody takes their clothes off. I want people think of my work as portals where these things can actually happen, an event, a crack in the walls.
My next project is using wax and flowers to fossilize them like evidence from a fringe incident recently added to a museum, to integrate these 2D pieces into something much more real. The aim with the work is to provide them with an experience rather than anything specific.
What do you look for in an image? What makes a great photograph for you?
It just has to feel right–you just know when something is a great image. Other times, I can just see straight away what I want to do with it and how I want to edit it and use it for something. I think colour is important to me and the atmosphere, but it’s so hard to say–I really don’t know, you can just tell. I rarely look for images, apart from hunting in Geographic’s (which is full of amazing photographs and photographers), they tend to just find me.
John Stezaker, Picasso, Escher, Brzeska. Steve Reich, Ian Williams, Zach Hill, Storm and Stress, Nick Van Woert.
Favorite places online?
Youtube, Tumblr, Bandcamp, Wikipedia. Also that beercan/bacon website was pretty entertaining, along with incredibox.
Favorite pieces of artwork or photographs.
Sugar Free, Abraham Lincoln and “Julius Caeser” by Nick Van Woert have inspired me a lot recently.
Just love this. Reminds me of a Specific Memory that I don’t want to lose. Battles are probably my favorite band still together, this is a live video of them playing B + T. Don Caballero are my favorite band ever, Ian Williams my favorite guitarist ever, and this is them live on their last tour before they crashed the van after hating each other for a couple of years, everyone should watch this Seattle playlist. I think this song is perfect, it’s my favorite of all time, another Ian Williams track. Best drummer in the world ever. Full playlist, 10 tracks by Jon Brion, Battles, Don Caballero, Storm & Stress, Hella, Islet, LITE, Chevreuil and Giraffes? Giraffes!, here: Featured Artist: Ben Giles.
All videos courtesy Ben Giles.
Talk about your video work?
The videos were a series where I wanted to give people feelings or memories that didn’t belong to them. I wanted people to come away not understanding a narrative that wasn’t there, but as if they had just remembered a memory that had been hidden away. It’s like a force, I want the videos to just make people feel. Certain videos had basic structures, such as Johannesburg, which was unraveling backwards like a snail’s shell, or a tornado, slowly imploding into nothingness, sucking up memories while an elderly person is on their deathbed. While others are simply collections of moving imagery that I want people to relate to without really understanding why.
And science fiction?
Films such as Alien, Blade Runner, Clockwork Orange, Moon and Children of Men have all influenced me. As a kid, anything with spaceships, lazer guns, war, cowboys, Indians, they would always be on, and I was transfixed. My sister hated me for hogging the TV and watching these things. Star Wars was my favorite as a kid, when the newer films came out, I went and saw them all in the cinema and bought the light sabers and everything. I never read comic books, though, and it’s actually something I regret.
So as far as various mediums, which comes most naturally to you?
Drawing was my main medium for a long time, and then collage just came naturally from that. At the moment, I would say it is. I think once I’ve done what I feel is enough collage, I will focus on something else. And I think that time is very soon: I’m in the process of sculpture and painting more. I’ve been doing collage for around seven months now and I think this is as far as I want to take it. I don’t want to repeat myself, but I’m happy with what I’ve created in that time. At first, I was awful at collage, but after a few weeks, it just became natural to me, as I hope sculpture or painting will become natural to me in a year or so.