Interview: Louis Porter

Our second exhibition of our Another Way of Looking programme, alongside Brighton Photo Fringe and Biennial, comes from ABC photographer Louis Porter with his “Anatomy of Business” body of work. One of our writers, Martha Morley, spoke to Louis about the body of work…

I was excited to interview Louis Porter, about his latest exhibition Anatomy of Business which “examines the visual language of business through the appropriation of an archive of 1980’s financial newspaper photographs, acquired by the artist in early 2008”

For those who aren’t familiar with Louis’ work; he is a Yorkshire born Photographer who moved to Australia in 2000 and has floated between the two countries ever since. His interest in photography started as a hobby up until his early 20’s and when asked about where it all began he is modest and relaxed in response “I honestly don’t remember when I started to take it seriously, although I started to write “photographer” in the “occupation” section of paper work from around 2003 onward” and since then Louis has delighted audiences in Australia and Britain with his fantastic exhibitions and varying subject matter. That’s what makes his work so exciting and accessible to all “I’m not sure I have an overarching style, (in my work) I hope that people can find a voice in my work” he has in fact even had exhibitions and reviews where people “were shocked and thought that I was two different people” so go along and check out his latest work because with Louis you simply don’t know what you’re going to get next.

I talked to Louis about his latest exhibition and how it all came together when he (in his own words) “takes something that we see all around us, and pokes it with a camera.”

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(photo courtesy of Stills Gallery)

Martha Morley: Exploring the language of business through 80’s financial newspaper photographs is a really interesting idea. How did you come up with the concept?

Louis Porter: In early 2008 I went to visit a friend in Melbourne who runs a stall at a local flea market. On her porch were several tall piles of manila folders wrapped in string, each bulging with photographs. The folders, I discovered, contained the archive of an Australian financial newspaper that had existed briefly in the 1980’s. Since the newspaper’s demise, the archive had sat in the attic of one of its photographers, who after nearly 30 years of watching it gather dust, decided that it was time to find a new home for the many folders . I immediately bought and took back to my studio the entire archive. For some weeks I then sifted through the photographs, re-ordering them along alternative lines and before long, I realised that I was creating a visual lexicon of sorts.

M.M: Sounds like you had an extensive catalogue of photographs to choose from, could you talk me through your selection process? 

L.P: I’ve never done a proper count of the material in the archive, although it fills two separate filing cabinets and about half a dozen 10×8 inch archive boxes. My process was generally intuitive, I would look through folder after folder, initially just looking at the photographs. Eventually certain elements would begin to stand out and I would then review the archive from the perspective of those elements. Working with an archive is a little how I imagine it must be for an astronomer looking at the cosmos. Both are systems that invite the testing of hypotheses through observation alone. I scan an archive like I might scan the night sky, looking for anomalies and patterns, any one of which might alter my understanding of the whole.

M.M: You talk about juxtaposing images alongside the newspaper photographs, did you set out to capture certain images to match with them, or was that something you worked out afterwards?

L.P: The pairings in this work are deliberate and for each photograph I took, I had a specific pairing from the archive in mind. On a few occasions I ended up creating pairs composed of elements solely from the archive or from photographs I had taken – generally this was with the intention of strengthening the flow of one pairing to another or as a way of introducing an element into the project that I hadn’t managed to find in the archive.

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(photo courtesy of Stills Gallery)

M.M: What challenges did you face with the juxtaposing images coming from different decades? 

L.P: The images from the newspaper archive were taken from prints, bromides and photocopies, sometimes very small sections that were then heavily enlarged. Although I decided to level the playing field by producing the contemporary images in black and white, using Tri-X film to give a more “traditional” look to the photographs, I decided not to get too caught up in worrying about how a photocopied print from 1982 would work with a scanned negative from 2009. It was the ways in which these two things could come together that I was particularly interested in exploring, so in many respects I considered the project more of a series of experiments, than of challenges.


M.M: This project shows an exploration of the relationship between documented representation of business (the archived photographs) and how without their original, intended, context all images are open to reinterpretation, was this something you had in mind whilst creating this body of work?

L.P: Despite photography being one of the most universal forms of communication, our knowledge of its linguistic structure could be compared to a well-trained Labrador’s understanding of the English language, basic at best. When we shatter a photograph’s connection to its original context, I think what we are doing is taking a peek at a complex visual syntax at work, we can see its various formulae and although we may not be able to decipher them, they still take effect. I’m interested in exploring the photograph as a raw material, in trying to figure out how it works and what its inherent properties are when the image is placed under pressure.

M.M: It’s such an amazing idea and you have obviously done a lot of exploration and experimenting to get the work to where it is now, how long were you working on this project and what obstacles did you face in getting it to where it is now?

L.P: I worked on this project for about four years, although other projects came and went in that time. Initially I wanted to have a greater presence of the journalists and photojournalists themselves in the work. They were often at the peripheries of the photographs in the archive, the “crop marks” drawn in black and white crayon by the photo editor, excising them from the printed newspaper. For the contemporary pairings I began to hang out at the city’s courthouses, waiting for the press pack to pounce on someone involved in a prominent case, usually they’d try and sneak out the back or sometimes run for it, but it never worked, the press kept all the doors covered. The whole thing was pretty grisly and it often ended badly. In the end I only used a few images.

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M.M: You’ve certainly shown dedication to this project, how would you compare ‘The Anatomy of Business’ to your previous collections of work? 

L.P: I’d worked with direct responses to archives before, in Record and Analysis for example I was asked to curate an exhibition based around a collection of engineering photographs held in the archives of the City of Melbourne. As part of the process I produced several sets of photographs which I then embedded into the collection, then for the exhibition drew upon both the original images and my own without any sense of hierarchy or even attribution (where that was possible). Even some of my close colleagues had difficulty separating many of the images I had taken, from those produced by the engineers that had been employed by the council over the years.

Now that you’ve heard what the exhibition is all about I’m sure you’ll be as excited to see it as I was, and if ‘The Anatomy of Business’ leaves you wanting more of Louis’ work, don’t despair, you’ll be glad to hear he has another collection of work in the pipe line “I’m currently tying up a residency project I did on the Death Strip of the Berlin Wall last year. I realised recently that this year is the 25th anniversary of the Wall’s demolition, so I’m a little annoyed at myself for not finishing the project sooner” He has also recently contributed to the latest Artists’ Book Co-operative project and has been hanging out in London phone boxes a fair bit. So we can look forward to what will come from that.

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Opening Hours

Sat 18th – 11am to 5pm

Sun 19th – 11am to 5pm

Thurs 23rd – 12 to 5pm

Fri 24th – 12 to 5pm

Sat 25th – 11am to 5pm

Sun 26th – 11am to 5pm

Thurs 30th – 12 to 5pm

Fri 31st – 12 to 5pm

Sat 1st Nov – 11am to 5pm

Sun 2nd Nov – 11am to 5pm

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The Miniclick Business Concern at 68MS is located in the middle of Brighton, 1 minute from the beach and a ten minute walk to Brighton Train Station. A number of trains run every hour to London (Victoria – 51mins / London Bridge – 56mins / London Blackfriars – 1hr 03mins).

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