FFO: RAW CONTEMPORARY BRITISH STREET PHOTOGRAPHY + SOCIAL DOCUMENTARY IN THE NORTH!
Who are you and where are you currently based?
I’m Connor Guy and I am currently based in Newcastle upon Tyne, although I will be relocating to Cardiff in the September of this year to study documentary photography at the University of South Wales.
How do you think studying Documentary Photography at South Wales will specifically benefit your practice, in oppose to continuing to practice photography in your free time without a degree?
Umm, personally I think the course will benefit my practice a lot just as the university is renowned for documentary photography and has a lot of talented alumni to come out of there! The course was founded by David Hurn and the lecturers now are renown photographers, the course leader now being Paul Reas! I just suppose having a good education from people who have been actively involved in the industry will help me improve my personal practice and offer better networking opportunities rather than going without a degree!
What’s your practice? What themes does your work explore?
I am a photographer, I predominantly work with street and documentary photography in a traditional manner. Within my work I try to touch on a select number of topics and themes, the main one being documenting everyday people just doing everyday things, trying to change the mundane into something a little bit more interesting. I also try to comment on other things subtly within my work, whether it be down to; politics, religion or just something I find funny or interesting.
What sort of reaction do you get when photographing people on the streets of Newcastle?
It’s very hit and miss in all honesty, normally it’s alright and all I really get is a few strange looks haha! But other times people can get a little irritated and have a go at me, which I really don’t mind at all in all fairness, I do understand that a lot of people don’t particularly like having a camera and a flash in their face! I do promise that I won’t upload or use their pictures online if someone does say something just out of respect for them, I do try and be respectful and courteous as I can towards people when taking pictures!
What iconic things will you miss about North East when you move to South Wales
I will miss a lot about Newcastle when I move, I’ve lived here all of my life and it’ll be really strange not being here anymore! I suppose I’ll miss the people of Newcastle a lot and the liveliness of the city, I’ll miss being able to get a real Greggs! I’m not too sure about the iconic things but I will definitely miss Newcastle a lot when I go!
What’s your typical camera set up for your work?
What got you interested in your artistic practice?
I cannot lie with this, I was first interested in photography specifically on film around 3 years ago when a couple of friends had inherited their film cameras from family and such and I really enjoyed seeing their prints and photographs online and just appreciated the ‘aesthetic’ of the whole thing. After buying a cheap camera from eBay and shooting for a number of months me and a friend visited the Side Gallery in Newcastle (a dedicated gallery space to documentary photography) and that’s where my interest in ‘real’ photography began. If I remember rightly the exhibition on at the time was The Coal Coast by a Finnish photographer based in the North East of England called Sirkka Liisa-Konttinen, it was a documentary project based on the past coaling areas within the North East and the detrimental effects of coal mining on the coastlines which fascinated and from then on I visited the gallery every time they have an exhibition on and started looking more into street and documentary photography from there.
What do you find more important – the aesthetic of the photograph or the meaning behind an image?
Personally I really think it really depends on the type of photographer you are, like if you are just taking photographs for fun and you like your pictures aesthetic then that’s absolutely fine and there doesn’t need to be any particularly any reason behind them, but if you’re a little more serious about it then I suppose it helps your work a lot if there’s a concept behind it and there’s context to your images, just as people can look into it a little bit more than just an initial ‘that’s a nice picture’! I just suppose it’s whatever you enjoy doing!
Who are you inspired by?
I have a lot of photographers who inspire my work, most of which being from the past haha! I love the idea of making a documentary project from street photographs, he is always ‘go to’ photographer but I do take a lot of inspiration from Martin Parr. Some of the other photographers I take a lot of inspiration from are; Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, Bruce Gilden, Matthew Stuart and Elliot Erwitt.
What exactly inspires you about these key classic practitioners in the documentary photography world? How has/does their work influence your practice?
I’m inspired a lot by other photographers and like a lot of what they were doing back in the 60s and 70s so I take a lot of inspiration from the likes of Gary Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz. I use a technique that Joel Meyerowitz used within his street photographs where he uses the Empire State Building as a reference point where you can see it in a number of his photographs as sort of a recurring theme, I use the Greys Monument in Newcastle (not as impressive as the empire state haha) as sort of a reference point within my work which if you pay attention you can see it consistently crop up in the background of my photographs!
What are your future aspirations?
I don’t actually have any real aspirations as of yet, I haven’t been taking photographs seriously for long enough to consider my long-term practice, I just know I enjoy documentary photography enough to study it. I suppose my own exhibition one day would be great, maybe a book at some point!
What advice would you recommend to young creatives today?
Umm, I’m not entirely sure on this one haha! Maybe just pursue whatever you wanna do, or just keep doing whatever you enjoy, make yourself happy I guess!
YOU CAN KEEP UP WITH CONNOR’S WORK VIA HIS INSTAGRAM!