FFO: NOSTALGIC, HONEST PORTRAITURE CAPTURED WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE FAMILY HOME.
Who are you and where are you currently based?
My name is Rhys Davies, I am 19 years old and I am a student studying documentary photography at the University of South Wales.
What does ‘Documentary Photography’ offer to you as a young creative? What about the genre attracts you as a practitioner, over other photographic genres as a form of expression?
For me I have always struggled with expressing my views and thoughts, Documentary Photography is a very narrow niche within the photographic industry and crosses over with photojournalism. To me, Documentary Photography has been researched much more than photojournalism and is taken over a much longer period of time. With Documentary Photography I find myself being able to express my social concerns and political views in a way that can be interpreted and personal to each viewer.
What’s your practice? What themes does your work explore?
My practice is photography and it is primarily Documentary based as that is my profession, however, I also take commercial style work to enable me to graduate knowing I will be able to work on any assignment I am given.
What do you like to photograph? and what do you hope to achieve when you take an image?
Depending on what I am shooting determines how I like to photograph. If I am shooting for a client or commercially then I gravitate towards shooting digital (Nikon D750 with 24-70 2.8 / 70-200 2.8) as I am able to get them their images edited and selected back to them within 5 days. For personal projects or requested by clients then my preferred way of shooting is on a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, by shooting 6×7 medium format it slows my practice down and for me, brings me back to basics, ensuring the composition is correct, making sure the frame tells the viewer what I want it to portray and it makes you clinical on what you photograph which is what I prefer. The quality and aesthetics produced by the 6×7 heavily depends on the film used so as important as it is choosing the correct composition and framing the choice of film is also as important.
As a documentary photographer, what skills do you think you bring to the table when adapting your style of shooting to a more commercially motivated project?
Through my natural mannerism and way of being, I have always enjoyed speaking to people whether that be in person or on the phone. This has benefitted me hugely whilst at university due to being able to approach anyone on the streets or knock on anybody’s door. University has aided me and enhanced my business skills, when companies contact me regarding commercial shoots I am very confident in replying whether that be arranging a meeting, responding to an email or speaking over the phone. With the technical knowledge that I have gathered over the past 3 years, I know that I am confident in shooting with whatever they wish whether that be digital, 35mm, 120mm, large format or digital medium format.
What got you interested in your artistic practice?
I had never been a successful academic student I was far more practical, through taking photographs with my father at family weddings I always concentrated on the fine details to tell my version of the day. I was young and had to decide what I wanted to study at college to determine my career, I had no clue what to choose and I was lost. The deadline came sooner than expected and I had to choose a career path, naturally, I chose Photography as I could express myself through that medium better than any other way.
Did you feel influenced by anyone or anything in particular when you chose photography as a subject to study? And do you ever regret choosing to study photography, over other subjects of interest to you?
Strangely no, I was successful in getting a place on a veterinary course however I could not follow through with it as I was too young to get work experience that was required. The deadlines came and I needed to choose a course, I chose photography and said I would do it for the year and then go back to veterinary practices however within that year I was inspired and intrigued in how I can portray my social concerns through photography.
I have never regretted choosing to study photography as it has enabled me to have a voice, it has given me opportunities that I would never have had before.
Who are you inspired by?
At the start of my studies, I was initially inspired by photographer Catherine Opie with her self-portraits to express her opinion/story. As my knowledge of photography grew larger I discovered a UK photographer called Lee Jeffries, Lee photographs the homeless and for a few years I was inspired by his work and tried to replicate it.
After starting University I now have different views on Lee’s work, I find it troubling and exploitative. My main inspirations are now David Hurn, Don McCullin, Guy Martin, Richard Billingham, and Sebastian Bruno.
Do you feel like it is important to look behind the initial appearance of a photograph? such as to question the photographer’s motivations and agendas behind their photographs?
I feel that it is very important to question photographers their motivation as long as you get a truthful answer. In the world, we live in today in the art world the majority of people are doing their practice ‘To make a change’ or some over anecdote.
For me, I do my documentary projects as that is where my interest is and I enjoy seeing how my work informs people on issues they didn’t know were there however, my documentary work does not pay my bills nor my food so sensibly I also market for commercial photography that I use to fund my personal projects as well as keeping me alive.
What are your future aspirations?
My future aspirations are to graduate, study my Masters, work within my niche industry and after building a respectable reputation I want to go into teaching as I have always gained a lot of satisfaction from teaching younger children.
What would you like to study your Masters in? and how do you feel a Masters would benefit you and your practice/career prospects?
For me, I still wish to continue my documentary photography however I would like to specialize in how photographic bodies of work can truly represent a place, event or a group of people involved with social concerns focusing on portraiture. My final end goal after working within the industry is to go into teaching so gaining my Masters will aid me well into my career choice.
How do you intend to build up a ‘respectable reputation’ within photography?
To gain a respectable reputation within my field I will be true to myself and my practice and not change that, I will (currently) be working on a website that focuses on SOE which will include a portfolio of my work as well as working on social media accounts. To be successful in any field I feel it is important to acknowledge that every form of reputation is needed as much as the other. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful, having a successful website attracts certain companies and keeping up with current trends some companies/organisations will purely rely on social media.
What advice would you recommend to young creatives today?
For any young creatives that are just starting in the creative industry my main piece of advice would be to listen to no one but yourself, you are powerful enough to make a change, the world will always need an artist and you can definitely make a career out of the creative industry.
YOU CAN KEEP UP WITH RHYS’ WORK VIA HIS INSTAGRAM!