INTERVIEW: CLAIRE McCLEAN (PHOTOGRAPHER)

FFO: FINE-ART INSPIRED AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL IMAGERY, A TOUCHING TRIBUTE TO NOSTALGIA AND MEMORY

 

Who are you and where are you currently based?

 I am a photographer based in Leeds, originally from Manchester.

 

What’s your practice? What themes does your work explore?

I have explored many different avenues in photography trying to figure out what on earth I’m good at, and I feel that in the end I always end up going back to fine art photography. I mainly work with themes of memory and change, and the idea of using photography as a tool to create timelines and nostalgia.

For example between 2010 and 2017, I made an album of images every month of my life. The book was over 1,000 images in total – it included friends, family, gigs, parties, cats, as well as other useless things. Edited down and curated into a book, it created a timeline of my teenage years – and looking through it you can see me grow into who I am now.

 

Copy of misty_moon (1)
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

For my graduate show, I exhibited my ongoing project ‘Subject to Change’, where I obsessively and extensively photographed the current home I was living in. After living in 7 different homes in the space of 3 years, I guess it became a kind coping mechanism to immortalise spaces, people, and feelings through the use of images. It seems to be something I’ve always been obsessed with, whether I realise I’m doing it or not.

 

What specifically attracts you to fine art photography over any other genre? how does practicing in the style of this genre benefit you?

 I found that throughout my five years of studying photography, I could never settle on one genre because I never felt that passionate about one in particular. When I started working within the fine art genre, it was a way of expressing feelings and emotion that I have felt in my own life, and that way I felt I was directly benefiting from it. Even though I still enjoy fashion/portraiture/events etc, these forms of photography seem to directly benefit whoever you are photographing for and not the photographer themselves. I guess that by making ‘Subject to Change’, I get to be selfish with my work and actually concentrate on documenting myself and my own life instead of everyone else’s.

 

Copy of hand_bath
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

After studying photography and recently graduating with a BA degree, what benefits and challenges have you came across whilst you’ve continued your practice as a photographer in the ever-so-scary ‘real world’?

I guess both the benefit and the challenge of working within the ‘real world’ is that you have the freedom to do whatever you want. When you’re working to a brief you have a vague prompt which you have to work to – which is sometimes helpful when you’ve hit a creative wall, or sometimes a curse when you want to do something completely different. Having no brief to work to since you are no longer in education is the complete flipside of that – you have the freedom to do what you want, but when you hit a creative wall you have no ‘deadline’ or brief to push you into making the work. Setting yourself deadlines is so important to actually getting work made when you have the freedom to do what you want.

 

Copy of rainbow_grass
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

What got you interested in your artistic practice?

As cliche as it sounds, I have always wanted to be a photographer since the age of about 7. My dad used to have this really old Nikon point and shoot, and I used to take it into the garden and take pictures of random stuff, I even used it to photograph my sister and/or my Sylvanian Families when she refused to model for me…

I never really knew what field I wanted to work in, and studying photography full time for five years almost didn’t help either, as it opened me up to so many different kinds of photography. I enjoy all sorts though, as mentioned previously fine art, but also portraiture, fashion, documentary, videography – you name it. It’s kind of a ‘jack of all trades – hopefully, master of at least one’ kind of situation. dajdkj

 

Copy of bed_light
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

Who are you inspired by?

 There’s so many, but my favourites include Rinko Kawauchi, Yoshinori Mizutani, and Monty Kaplan, all of which seem to make any ordinary thing extraordinary.

 

How do artists like Rinko Kawauchi, Yoshinori Mizutani, and Monty Kaplan inspire you directly?

As previously mentioned, I love how all three of them seem to make even the most mundane things so beautiful. Kawauchi works a lot with light and softness, Mizutani finds colour in every corner; and Kaplan makes the night seem mysterious and otherworldly with every shot. I hope to have all of these aspects in my own work.

 

Copy of mary
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

 What are your future aspirations?

Currently I’m working with @saltandpepperpress to publish a version of my book ‘Subject to Change’, I will also be working on making prints available. Making tote bags has been on my charts for a while so keep your eyes peeled for these. If I’m honest I’m not really sure where I want to be in the future with my work, I just know that I want to keep on creating, and eventually work within the creative industry.

 

Copy of holes_curtain
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

What advice would you recommend to young creatives today?

My only advice would be to always dedicate time to create. It’s so easy to lose touch of your art and making work (I have experienced this first hand), and try not to get so frustrated when you hit a creative wall. It happens to all of us, and it doesn’t mean you’re shit. Promise.

 

Copy of red_bed
All images are taken by Claire McClean

 

Considering your previous answer, what advice would you give to current studying photographers // your past self as a student?

Make the most of the time you have as a student! I’m not saying that I didn’t, but I still could have done so much more. I think you only really realize when you’re out of university how much time you actually had on your hands where you could have made work, collaborated and networked. It’s so hard to put a real perspective on things like that when you’re within it all, but you’ll most likely never get a chance like that again to make work with so much time and resources available to you.

 

YOU CAN KEEP UP WITH CLAIRE’S WORK VIA HER WEBSITE AND VIA HER INSTAGRAM!

YOU CAN ALSO SEE CLAIRE’S PREVIOUS INSTAGRAM TAKEOVER WITH DIY YOUTH HERE!

 

 

 

 

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