Back in March, Miniclick hosted an evening of talks from Harry Rose and Hannah Saunders on the topic of Mythology within art – exploring what is real and what is fabricated. Our new writer, Lottie Wilson, caught up with Harry after the talk to learn more about his practice.
It seems as though you’re capable of working across a range of different photographic styles (archive, portrait, studio, location, landscape, etc). Would you be able to describe your style? What links all of these projects together?
Discovering your visual style was in part a way this project helped me explore various ways of storytelling. I spent some time looking at the various works by Lisa Barnard and Clare Strand, both of these artists are able to explore complex and conceptual themes through various different approaches. Their work got me excited about making and doing things again.
It’s a image led project about a creature that may not exist, and I was (probably) never going to be able to photograph out in the wild. So that was a challenge in itself, which naturally led me down the path of working out different ways you can try to portray within images stories and locations and the mythology of Bigfoot. Photography is a very limiting tool, so you have to work outside of those limits and try to think differently. Take your academic photography head off and just play and explore.
Most of my projects focus on a place or space. So there is a common theme even if the subject matter is different. From the photographing where your fathers ashes lay on a mountain and the personal history there, to a project on Bigfoot and the space it supposedly inhabits.
How did you get started with Looking for Bigfoot?
It had been a year since I graduated University studying photography. My graduate project was very weighted and personal, and in a way it made me step back and engage with photography in a different way. I’m more of a facilitator for other peoples work and making positive things for other people. It’s more rewarding then seeing my own work come together for example.
So I was doing what a lot of recent graduates do and working a few jobs they don’t really want to do, and I was spending a lot of time watching shows like X files, conspiracy theories on Youtube. I thought, or assumed, someone had made a series of photography projects in the style and feel of these sub culture communities online who believe in the existence of aliens, monsters and ghosts but I didn’t really see any, so I decided to look online about a British creature of mythology. I stumbled across a society and community of ‘researchers’, who all have had encounters at a young age. I thought “right this is it, do I go in as Mulder and believe everything, or Scully and be a skeptic?”. It kind of went from there. Speaking to people, learning about locations, signs, things to look for, how to document sightings or ‘encounters’.
(So far) you don’t present your answer to the “does bigfoot exist” question. Is then the project more about the exploration of the idea then a conclusion?
It’s about the journey, right? I’ve spent time with people who truly believe. It’s an unwavering belief, a challenging and sometimes confusing one at times. I would love to say “yeah, it exists!”, because how exciting would that be?! I think that has a lot to do with it. Finding something new or proving something others just shook their head at. It’s a fringe idea, and so far there is no real DNA evidence or proof they exist besides some prints found in America which are either amazing fakes or they are onto something.
I also think its fairly obvious if it does or doesn’t exist. But wanting to believe in something that isn’t real isn’t exactly an uncommon notion, institutions are built upon belief. To the Bigfoot community this is their religion, it’s not a question of it not being real. I think the project (hopefully) touches on the level of that belief for some people, whilst still trying to be realistic and not swept up by it all.
You’ve had some experiences with UK Bigfoot Hunters. Can you tell us about this a bit?
Some of it was really interesting, speaking to people online and learning more about the mythology of Bigfoot, how it has evolved and how it’s been apart of our culture for century’s. I also had really strange experiences like waking up one morning whilst camping with a ‘Bigfoot Hunter’, to see a axe outside the tent. Being led up different paths being told stories of people going missing or seeing things. It’s pretty scary and unnerving which I think was the desired effect they wanted.
The community on whole was a difficult one to get into, they are very wary of anyone. A sort of online screening process happened. I was just very open and receptive to different ideas and ways of looking at things. There was also one incident which involved the police, but for that reason I’m not able to really discuss it online. I guess you should come to more Miniclick talks for extra inside info on peoples’ projects! It’s kind of nice in a way to hold a few things back just to a certain group of people.
It’s an ongoing project, how do you plan to continue it?
I think it’s finally not ongoing now! I’m not sure where it can go, but what I am working on is exploring similar themes of the unknown and unexplained, as well as groups of people like Flat Earthers. I’m currently working on a project called WE EXIST which is a portrait series documenting the lives of LGBTQ+ people living in London. So it’s a much needed break from the world of conspiracies and cryptozoology.
In addition to your own practice you publish Darwin magazine. How do these two aspects feed into each other?
Darwin is a labour of love. It’s been super quiet for a while now. I work for the British Journal of Photography, which is a much bigger photography publication to work for and presents bigger challenges for me. Saying that, Darwin is coming back. It’s a process that isn’t being rushed, myself and Ryan Grimley have both been working in different areas of the imaging world and that takes a lot of the time you want to spend on other things, but it also has taught us so much in terms of what we want Darwin to be. The direction and what it will be is ambitious and different, originally we got Darwin out in a month, now its more like 8 months planning and researching and really thinking about what the photography world needs from a new publication. There are so many new start up magazines, so many photo things out there. I want to make sure we’re adding value thats cutting through the noise rather than adding to it. Nobody wants another indie photo mag with boring portraits in it, do they?
But how that fits into my other work, I guess it makes me spend more time being anxious and paranoid over what I’m doing is any good. I’m plugged into photo land and you see a lot of projects, and its made me slow down. I know so many good friends who go away for two weeks and produce images it would take me 2 years to produce. But that’s just how I work now; it’s not a race and I’m still learning and discovering what actually interests me. As long as working across from publishing to my own photography is healthy and fun then I’ll keep the two fuelling one another.
Harry Rose – http://harry-rose.format.com
Darwin – http://darwinmagazine.tumblr.com