INTERVIEW: JOSHUA TURNER (PHOTOGRAPHER)

FFO: IMAGES INSPIRED AND INFORMED BY PSYCHO-GEOGRAPHY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC THEORY – LEADING TO THE CREATION OF THESE RATHER EERIE AND ATMOSPHERIC NORTHERN LANDSCAPES SHOT ON FILM.

 

Who are you and where are you currently based?

I am currently studying photography (3rd year) at Salford Uni, and if you told me that 5 years ago there is 0% chance I would have believed you.  

I lived in Buxton my entire life, until coming to Manchester. As a child I somehow found photography as a way of capturing things; I think because I can have a pretty poor memory I used photos as a reference to significant events. My studies have brought me to Manchester, a local city that feels a world apart from my home town.

 

Scorched Subway-2
Image taken from the series ‘Scorched Subway‘, 2017 by Joshua Turner

 

If you were asked what you were going to do with your life 5 years ago what would you have said?

5 years ago, I was really into the photography scene for Motorcycle Trials, an extreme sport at World Championship level. I was beginning to work for Trial Magazine UK, where I got the odd cover page and double spread pull-out poster, I was practically living my childhood dream. I wanted to travel the world and photograph people on motorbikes!

 

How come Manchester feels a world apart from your hometown?

Buxton is a tourist town that is relatively central to the Peak District, it was lovely to grow up there but after 18 years it personally got a little boring. Manchester provides a different way of living that makes me feel more engaged with photography, both in my practice and contemporary work. I also generally find it to be much more of an exciting place with loads to offer.

 

Scorched Subway-1
Image taken from the series ‘Scorched Subway‘, 2017 by Joshua Turner

 

What is your current photographic work about?

My photography has been changing a lot during my time at uni but somewhat settled towards the end of the second year. I use a hybrid of documentary and landscape practice to enable myself a better understanding of my subject. All of the work I produce, apart from some early projects (see Grass & Concrete), is shot on film as this provides a process which allows time to reflect on the imagery and encourages a more precise workflow.

Most recently I have finished Scorched Subway, a zine in which I explore a community using a psychogeographic approach, in an attempt to establish a better understanding of where I was living at the time. What I found was a pleasant community that had, from my perspective, been tainted by a single negative aspect.

A current work in progress, which will be exhibited in my degree show, is Mechanical Trace (working title). A series in which I explore how landscape holds information and history. I focus on how intricacies of a location can be read, especially through the observation of trace and the indexical link. I refine this approach by applying it to a subject which I am personally attuned to, having been a part of it my whole life. Motorcycle Trials is a sport that requires a specific knowledge of the landscape; using this subject allows my research to have a focus, the intricacies of which I am well aware. My visual output on this subject is currently through the use of photography, but I am working towards more experimental techniques to see how I can interrogate the perceptions of representation.

I tend to limit myself to creating larger projects that take some time, though I recently visited the Highlands taking my LF camera with no ideas or intention to shoot. This helped me to appreciate the process of responding directly to the landscape to make smaller/quicker pieces of work in a more relaxed way.

Scorched Subway-8
Image taken from the series ‘Scorched Subway‘, 2017 by Joshua Turner

 

In reference to your project/zine ‘Scorched Subway’ what negative event seemed to have tainted the community?

It’s nothing serious, and funnily enough it’s actually the title of the work. There is an underpass that connects the housing area to local playing fields and someone has really gone to town on it. The wall tiles are all over the floor, there are burn marks covering the walls and ceiling and a good amount of shattered glass on the floor. The negative connotation was influenced by the state of the underpass, in the dark this led my mind to speculate as to who would have done it and the rest of the response can be seen in the zine.

 

What ways have you intended to use/used more experimental techniques to interrogate the perceptions of representations within your current series ‘Mechanical Trace’?

The way I understand representation is that it informs you of a subject; I want to use techniques that adopt the indexical link, much like a foot leaves a footprint, to create a direct representation of my subject. The interrogation of representation is in that a technique uses the subject so literally that it no longer represents the subject because it lacks in context. I plan to use moulding and 3D scanning to experiment with this premise, whilst highlighting that photography isn’t about cameras, but about the subject in question.

 

Scorched Subway-13
Image taken from the series ‘Scorched Subway‘, 2017 by Joshua Turner

What got you interested in photography and taking images?

As a child I was really fortunate that my family took holidays to unconventional locations which were full of history and culture. I remember being standing in front of Al Khazneh in Petra and I couldn’t really comprehend what I was looking at, simply just looking didn’t seem to be enough. I had a Kodak EasyShare which had something like 7MP, the battery compartment was taped shut with a plaster because it was broken, and I shot all day.

Since college it has been a slow process of understanding what I want to do with photography, constantly asking myself why I shoot. I feel recently that I am attaining a better sense of what and why I photograph, working with a clearer idea of my intentions.

 

How do you feel your work/style/approach has developed since the beginning of university to nearly the completion of your degree?  How beneficial have you found university?

At the beginning of my degree I was hung up with the idea of developing a ‘style’ but I came to realise that this wasn’t an important aspect of my work, each project would be created in the way that best represents the idea. It is difficult to define an approach, but my process relies on using photography to understand a subject and to enable an exploration of theory. University has been more beneficial than I could ever have imagined. Beginning with no clear idea of what I wanted, I am coming to the end with confidence in my practice and an understanding for what I will pursue within the industry; as well as an appreciation for photography as a process rather than just a final resolution.

Scorched Subway-12
Image taken from the series ‘Scorched Subway‘, 2017 by Joshua Turner
Scorched Subway-14
Image taken from the series ‘Scorched Subway‘, 2017 by Joshua Turner

 

Who are you inspired by?

I find that increasingly my inspiration comes from writing, two particular favourite writers of mine are David Campany and Roland Barthes; I think the application of theory on photography is such an interesting way to share ideas and research.

I take visual inspiration from photographers who have a more objective approach to their imagery, Thomas Struth, Sophie Ristelheuber, Mark J Edwards, to name only a few. Though photobooks are the way that I see most photography, I feel that books allow so much control over the reading of the work and accessibility to the audience. Books are the way I prefer work to be presented, most likely because I take an interest in photography that offers an ongoing narrative.

 

What are your future aspirations?

I plan to continue producing work, always looking for new ways to produce and present. I would like to create a body of work that constitutes a book, though this is not something that I will rush into. I will also put more time to writing about photography, writing helps me understand my work and I find written insight into photographers’ practice very interesting. I’m currently working on an anecdotal piece about how my opinion and approach to smaller projects recently changed after a trip to Scotland, this will soon be found on the blog section of my website.

 

What advice would you recommend to young photographers today?

Photography isn’t really about cameras, it’s about people and places and if you have a story to share, then share it with a passion. Don’t worry about how you make it. Also, shoot more. There is something in the process of photographing and reflecting on the images that can trigger inspiration in a way like no other. You don’t always need an understanding of what you are doing, often it is your intuition that needs relief from overthinking an aspect of your work.

 

Work In Progress - Degree Project
Image from a work in progress by Joshua Turner

You can keep up with Joshua’s work via his website or via his instagram.

To purchase his zine ‘Scorched Subway’ for £8+postage visit his store here!

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