Friday, 12 October 2012

Joss McKinley interview - part 02

Python, South Africa 2012 © Joss McKinley
I was interested to hear that Joss McKinley hasn't really drawn much inspiration from other photography. In fact, he told me that he finds a lot of it lacking in heart or 'quite sterile'. The work he does admit to being drawn to is that of Wolfgang Tillmans, JH Engstrom and Julia Margaret Cameron, on the face of it quite different types of photographer.

What they share, I believe, is romanticism (albeit in different forms) and it's this aspect that comes through in McKinley's images. Tillmans's apparently shotgun approach to subject matter, scale and presentation (what Andrew Graham Dixon called 'shards of consciousness') looks a million miles away from McKinley's work, but both artists acknowledge 'the flow of a life', time that passes and which cannot be recovered.  I think what really binds these artists though, is the apparent desire, not to capture something of their present, but rather reach back in time to construct or resurrect something that was. Cameron famously drew on Renaissance painting for her photography and built on literary and biblical themes in order 'to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art'. She may have produced some of the most powerful portrait photographs of her age, but they achieved their status because they appear to have existed outside of as well as within her own time.

You get the same impression from Engstrom's images. His series CDG, with its layer of grey smog over each picture, almost gives you the feeling he has succeeded in taking photographs of his own subconscious; memories of Charles de Gaulle airport, rather than the airport itself. They become intimate views of the artist just as much as they are views of structures or landscape.
McKinley admits this is probably what is happening in 'Gathering Wool'. When I asked him about the people that appear in some of the pictures, he was clear that they were part of the story, rather than the main subject. More significant for him was the fact that the series, at its root, contains 'projections of myself'.

It has got me wondering whether 'Gathering Wool' is less about our minds taking time out and more about, to clumsily borrow a title from a Bob Dylan album, taking time out of mind.

Jonathan Crawford

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