|Salute, Ireland 2010 © Joss McKinley|
If you are looking at the work of Joss McKinley, you wouldn't think he's the kind of photographer to be based in London. There is nothing in the 'Gathering Wool' series, or the other work I have seen so far, that gives any hint of an urban lifestyle.
He was in his Old Street studio when I phoned, and for anyone that knows Old Street, it's not the kind of place you go for a bit of peace and quiet. I put it to him that the approach he takes to his work is a kind of reaction to his environment and, since he spent his childhood years in a small town in the Somerset countryside, perhaps a yearning for that slower way of life.
'That sounds about right,' he agreed, but not convincingly. I get the impression McKinley actually enjoys living in the capital. After all, he chose to move there at 18 because, as he says, 'it always excited me'. But he does add that 'you have to know how to utilize it', which suggests that he has found a way to avoid its more hard-edged influences. They certainly don't find their way into his pictures. He tells me he gets out of town regularly, and usually to Ireland from where his partner comes and where the pace is very different. London, then, is perhaps a place that helps him pursue his photographic style by bringing it into greater relief.
McKinley completed an MA in Photography at the London College of Communication, where he says he learnt for the first time the discipline of creating a photographic project. Before that, he was just taking pictures. That said, it is often not a linear process for him. The 'Gathering Wool' series, for example, is a collection of images taken over a number of years. He tells me that some were taken before the series was conceived. So the project had started in his head before he was aware of it. It was only when reviewing some of his images later that he made a subconscious connection between them.
As McKinley explains, 'many of the images were taken while on holiday or just walking around. It's about observing things and then seeing what comes back from the dark room, laying them out and seeing what works with what.' Gathering Wool is also very much an open-ended project for McKinley, or a work-in-progress, as he calls it. He has more as yet unseen images that may form part of the series in the future and indeed, he admits, some existing images may no longer fit. McKinley is curious just to see how it develops. And for my part, so am I.