ANTONY CAIRNS

 
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Antony Cairns spends much of his time stalking the city during the early hours. Due to the growing privatisation of public space, his twilight excursions have become the only way of capturing images without confrontation from patrolling security guards. His work primarily focuses on new urban developments, the buildings of which are rapidly replacing historical structures and casting new shadows across our city. Interestingly, it is those shadows which are so dominant in Cairns’ work, exacerbated by the fluorescent tubes so heavily utilised to both light and survey us at night.

Using homemade chemical recipes, Cairns pushes and pulls his resulting transparencies to within an inch of their original likeness, coaxing out indexical signs left by the city. His buildings radiate a white-hot bleakness which burn their omnipresence onto the film without need for a camera, whilst beads of polluted grain pool and streak across the frame. It is as though one is peering through a glass fragment from the exact kaleidoscopic complex being photographed, an obsidian mirror image. Exuding a detached cynicism, Cairns is not documenting contemporary architecture, instead, his caricatures of the city allude to narratives that would be more at home on the pages of the sci-fi novels he enjoys so much.

Cairns’ work is perhaps best understood in two strands. Firstly; his archive of slides depicting the somewhat interchangeable landscapes of cities like London, New York and Tokyo; Secondly, his fervent exploration of process, and witty manipulation of varying materials and defunct technology to display his repository of images. Cairns repeatedly strips image from object, only to forcibly meld the two back together as lo-fi photo-objects. For his ongoing E.I. series, Cairns digitises his transparencies and uploads the files onto hacked first generation Kindles, where a current in the device stimulates the Electronic Ink, exciting it into different arrangements for text and image. Wrenching the screen out of its casing fixes the ink permanently within the glass, killing off any interface and creating glitchy digital daguerreotypes. Instead of existing as portals to communicate images, the screens solidify into inert photographic symbols.

Words: Laura Norman
Portraits: Clare Hewitt

 

 

 
 
 

If we start talking about your work we should really begin with the fact that you were born in London, you grew up in the city, and you studied here too. You studied photography at the London College of Printing, was that just before it changed over to the London College of Communication?

During its change over actually. It was the London College of Printing for two years, which was based at Back Hill in Farringdon, and for the final year it moved over to its Elephant and Castle site where it changed its name to London College of Communication. It was an interesting time. The building we had in Back Hill was the old Daily Mail printing building, which had been given to the university for some reason or another. It was really well suited for things like the darkrooms and studios. When they moved to the other building it wasn’t as nice. They’d removed lots of darkroom equipment, it was the turn of the millennium so people were getting more into the digital side of things, they gave some of it to me when they moved from one site to the other, and when we arrived at the new space a lot of it had gone, they just hadn’t taken it across.

During that shift, did you or your peers see a substantial change in your own output?

There were a lot of people that carried on doing traditional photography. The school was right on the cusp, so it taught you how to do both colour and black and white printing and how to process your own films, but then also how to scan your negatives. It was great because you learnt how to do it all and you could decide what you really wanted to do, from there a lot of people started to just use digital. But because people had been taught how to shoot analogue, and actually if you consider that when we were younger, say 15 or 16-years-old, we'd have shot in film so I think it’s just what we knew. Many of us stayed with film, we were printing ourselves and there were always lots of us in the darkroom which was a good thing.

Who did you study under?

Tom Hunter was one tutor, who’s a really good photographer known for his work about Hackney. Clare Strand taught us sometimes, as did Anne Williams, Susan Bright, Val Williams, they were all people that were around. But it was really the older guys that were into black and white printing, that’s who I went to see, the technicians. It was more laid back then, it wasn’t as regimented I suppose. You had to get to what you liked doing by the middle of the second year, but you didn’t see anybody for weeks. I was just doing my own thing. Actually, I led some guest tutorials at Goldsmiths and they have darkroom facilities but there aren’t so many people in there compared to when I was at school.

 
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I wanted to ask you about your post at Goldsmiths, you're a visiting lecturer on the MA course Photography: The Image & Electronic Arts. What concerns do those students come to you with?

Well, it’s a bit of an unusual degree to work on, it’s not really your traditional photography course. I help the students realise how they might go about putting their pictures on the walls. I enjoy it as you get to see their work but you don’t really need to tell them what they should be doing, and you can help them display it which many students don't understand too well nowadays because for them, it’s already out there, virtually. They make me feel like I should change my website because theirs are all so slick! It’s part of the course to build their websites which is great, but some of the work hasn’t quite got the context behind it yet. I always think that they’re a little afraid of how to print images and put them up, they all know how to make it look good if you’re looking at it on a screen at a certain size, on a media device like an ipad or a phone, but it's very difficult to print them and still make them look of a high quality.

I guess now you've lost a bit of the material quality, in photography that is. You’ve lost the physical photograph but have millions of images. You can make work that doesn’t exist in the world.

Yeah- it's true. As you know I prefer to print things, like the Osaka pieces where I pin them up so that they become a unique object, with perhaps only two variations. For me, I enjoy taking the time to make a print, rather than something that can be replicated endlessly.

Some of the earliest work that I found of yours is the Time, Gentlemen, Please project, historical salt prints of the pubs that had all closed down around London.

Yeah of course! That’s some early work that I made, in fact that’s what I made for my final year show. I used to do a lot of historical processes like salt printing, Van Dyke Brown…

Well I wanted to compare it to the work you’re making now. It’s still intensely process based, however it’s completely different in style. They’re these straight, documentary style images of old buildings, how did you move away from those?

At the time there was a backlash against digital with a lot of people making cyanotypes, daguerreotypes and tintypes, things like that, but in the end I think that my approach was just too ‘printery’. You've got to be careful when you use those processes, and particularly about why you’re using them. I thought it was okay to match old printing techniques with the old pubs that were closing down, but I don’t think the aesthetic worked. People just thought that the images were meant to look old, so instead of taking pictures of old buildings I started to take pictures of what they're being replaced by, which is all of this modern architecture. I didn't want to print them as salt prints because it made no sense, so I started to reverse process the film. I was processing 35mm positive film into negative and vice versa, and was experimenting with those techniques along with levels of the chemical mixtures. I was pushing the development so that it was layered and you could actually see that process of layering visually. It's a case of working towards things that absolutely cannot be achieved by pushing buttons digitally. Of course you can always try to recreate things, but it's hard to mimic imperfections which happen through chemical based processes. Around that time I also made the Dalston Kingsland panorama- have you seen that?

 
 

Funnily enough I was speaking to Dave Than about a few things last week and he showed me an image of you laying the whole piece out in their hallway at Four Corners, it’s huge!

Yeah and I exhibited it there actually. It's another example of a straight documentation of a street that I lived in from 2010-11. So it's not that I have always done these reversal processes of modern architecture, it's just that it had taken off. The other work is a little more separate, I don't like them to mix too much.

You had a studio at Four Corners for some time, is that how you met Dave?

Yeah but I've known him way longer than that. I had my own darkroom but I've also been printing with Four Corners for at least ten years or so. The studio was really shared by Stephen Gill and the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC), but I siphoned off a part for myself because it had a small back room that they didn’t know what to do with, so I took it off their hands. It's so hard to find large studios, I'm about to do all this new work and I’m needing a bigger space, but you have to go further out. You’d have been alright if you’d have bought up the warehouses in Hackney Wick in the 90s, my mate Nick Waplington clubbed together with Jake and Dinos Chapman and bought one down that way. But as you know I also work for AMC, so I’m always talking about photography with Dave and Owen Thomas, who works there too, we’ve just organically known each other for ages. They’re so talkative that lot! It's very community led and I've helped them out before with the Camerawork archive, which is one of their current projects. Around then, they asked if I would teach some black and white workshops, which I did, and in turn they knocked off the cost of me having to pay for the darkrooms. They've always asked me to go on their residency program but the timing has never worked out for me, which is a shame. I hope they still get their funding as it's such a good place. I've got so much stuff down in that darkroom… I need to call them actually.

So when you started working with images of new architecture, what was the first thing you started producing, would that have been your handmade books or the aluminium pieces?

It was the handmade books actually, because it's all based on this idea of making black and white transparencies. Once you make a transparency, it's not like a negative which you enlarge, there are instead only a few ways you can look at it, you can enlarge it by projecting it or you scan it and display it on a screen, which is back-lit, or you can put it in a handheld slide viewer, where you push the button to turn on the light. In any case, it's always going to be light from behind, so when I wanted to print and reproduce them, I always wanted to keep this idea of the illumination coming in from behind. So when I printed the black and white images onto paper, either digitally or in the darkroom, it just wasn't giving me the same type of feeling as the original transparencies so I ended up making a book. I printed the images onto tracing paper and spray-painted white or blue areas onto the page underneath, in the position where the lights would have been. I did that with one book and then I also started to print them onto aluminium because the metal, although it doesn't have its own light source, it gives you that impression when you shine a light onto it as it bounces off and you get the shine from underneath the print. So that’s how it moved as a whole project.

 

Antony Cairns, LDN, installation at Roman Road 2014  © Ollie Hammick

 

I think the aluminium as a material works really hard, conceptually. Now you mention this need to illuminate, I’m reminded of what Ian Jeffries said about your book, that whilst leafing through it reminds you of the photographic process. The way the light travels through those images on the tracing paper, the shadows it creates on the other page reminds one of bringing an image into focus.

Yeah it is a little like that. At that time when I wanted to make the handmade book, LDN1, I’d been to Tokyo a few times already and had spent large amounts of time at their paper shops. They have such good papers, so I bought a few thousand pieces from Takeo papers in Tokyo, one of the best paper suppliers in the world. I selected really nice quality paper and tracing papers so that in the end the whole thing is a high quality object.

What prompted you to start making publications?

Well it was more about trying to get your stuff out there, it was at the time where people were starting to do more self publishing too. Doing something like Blurb where you just send it off- I didn’t want to do anything like that. I wanted to have far more control over the material and I thought it was better to make my own things and to try and sell them to book collectors. It's hard when you’re out of university, just working, it's hard to make things happen. You want to get a show, but noone is going to just give you one, so you have to find ways of facilitating that and having books and objects is an easier way of doing things. There was a bit of a trend around 2008-9, where people started to do lots of self publishing and there were smaller publishing houses and books popping up, where previously you had zines, or companies with a run of thousands and thousands of copies.

I’ve read your interview with the curator of your show at Copperfield, Ines de Bordas, and you mentioned the tension between public and private spaces in London, and the fact that it prompted you to shoot in 35mm so that you're able to use a smaller camera. Could you talk a little more about that?

Well, I shot the pub project with a big 5x4 camera, where you have to set your tripod up and put the dark slides in and to expose the film it takes five minutes or longer to get the picture ready. I tried doing that in some of the modern complexes that are being built, and obviously someone would always come up and ask if I have a permit, to which I’d say no, and they'd politely tell me that I’m actually on private land. It's always a bit weird because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed too, they don't just knock down one building, they knock down all ten and then build up. It's not nice. I started to get a bit paranoid when I took my camera because I kept getting stopped, so in the end I just decided to take a smaller automated electronic Minox camera and shot surreptitiously, so they couldn't quite see me doing it. I'll be kind of hiding, the security guard goes over to the left, so I go over to the right...

 
 

How concerned are you with how your images look, what you capture?

Well, I was experimenting with the processing and development of the film because I wasn't always sure that the images would actually come out. I'd shoot roughly and not too preciously, and I’d overshoot one picture over and over again just to make sure it’s there because often when I’d started with the project, and even now, I mix the chemicals a little further out from what they should be, from that you can lose the images and you don't quite get what you think you're going to get. So I was always worried, and it pushed me into a way of shooting that was quite fast. I'd be walking around and suddenly feel slightly paranoid that I’m going to get caught taking pictures, usually late at night because I don't want anyone there, so I’m out late taking pictures when I shouldn’t. In the end, the pictures represent the experience of the place and of going and doing that action more than a real photographic record of where I've been that evening. I do make notes myself but it exists more as an abstract image of a city, it doesn't end up being ‘Kings Cross Station, 24 December, 2015’. I did want to use big, old, 5x4 slides but you’re always going to get stopped, so they’ve pushed me into this way of working. I shoot the same place many times, over and over to see what I get, to get the experience of the place.

When I look at them there is something unsettling about them, it’s the uncanny, these structures and areas that we encounter every day are familiar but perhaps we don’t quite take them in on a conscious level. I guess it’s the idea of being quietly regulated. I wonder what you see when you look at them, what feeling do you get from your images?

It’s a good question because it's not like I'm trying to build a dystopian world but I am a bit, fixated, on just taking these as records of a space. It's like what you said about being regulated, and it is generally modern architecture that does it. I’m often thinking, 'so this is what they're building for us walk around for the next 50 years or so, before they want to change it again'. There’s something about where these mega cities are heading that I don't quite like- new complexes with lights which are on for 24 hours a day, seating that's uncomfortable if you sit there for more than 10 or 15 minutes-

Completely, there are whole books written on unfriendly and defensive architecture, metal spikes installed to stop those sleeping rough from pitching up outside shop fronts, or benches which are made too thin so you aren’t tempted to stay there longer than you need to.

Yeah, they curve the wrong way, they’re made so you can sit there for a bit but you can never actually get comfortable. You're always being watched, there are cameras everywhere, there are odd aggressive structures, lighting structures that constantly flash. You think it's meant to be some kind of clever design, but it's intended to stop you lingering there. It's not that I'm trying to take pictures of it, it's just what's around now. That's what happens if you want to walk around the city. I'm not trying to put it on, but it's out there and that's how it makes some people feel.

Well, you mentioned that they’re serving as records of a space, but I am aware that I’m also projecting my own experiences onto those images.

But then they're not straight images, or records, they’re already somewhat abstracted so that can also add to a nightmarish feeling.

I think we return to the uncanny, and the way you’ve experimented with the film even reminds me a little of Moholy-Nagy’s Neue Sehen, you know, shifting angles and seeing in a way a human eye can’t, in a way only the camera can. So there’s always this element of the familiar/unfamiliar, looking at these cities with a new perspective.

Yeah, very true- in the development you've also got the solarisation too.

I wanted to ask about your interest in literature as it’s been mentioned many times. I wonder, does it still influence your work or is it something that is more in the periphery?

I suppose it does affect me. I read a lot of sci-fi novels and I quite like those ‘five minutes into the future’ ones too. I do think that some of them read true in the end, or at least a version of it, and if I see things in the city or in the streets which mimics an idea that I've read in a story I will try and photograph it but just for myself. I also read about ideas on architecture and public and private spaces, I read Mike Davis, but not so much right now. I do read a lot of Philip K. Dick, H.P. Lovecraft, people like that, and actually at the moment I’m writing a short story with a friend which we’re going to make into a movie using stills, so I guess I do like that idea of storytelling. I'm taking pictures but they're not pictures to record a reality, I'm not making a documentary. They’ve become an archive of images of London and other big cities, but it’s not a very helpful archive, it doesn't tell you anything about where the spaces are, it's all solarised and abstract.

You’ve told me before that the title or the particular area to which it refers, is redundant. I had learnt many of the difficult titles, which are mostly numerics and abbreviations of the cities you’ve been, for you then to then tell me that it didn’t really matter!

That's what I mean, it’s not a record. I think I’m going to move towards telling stories or deliberately creating a fiction as opposed to what I’m doing now, where I'm not doing either. I'm in between, I’m not trying to fool you into thinking something else, nor am I trying to say ‘here's a picture of Kings Cross Station’. I'm pushing towards that idea of storytelling, the fictitious. I’m going to have a show in 2018 with the Vevey Festival, I won second prize this year (2017) with a proposal about a guy that built a time machine, who was projected into today's future where he then tried to build a machine to take him back. It’s a classic time machine story, but using images and film which I’m looking forward to.

 

The Tale of Gordon Earl Adams © Antony Cairns

 

So this is based upon the true story of inventor Gordon Earl Adams, who disappeared while building a time machine in the early 20th century. What inspired the narrative of a time machine?

That came from working at AMC, I look after the London part of the collection, so I’m always looking at interesting things. It was something that we bought from an auction house about six years ago, so I knew about it as a story and I always thought it would be quite interesting to work with a faux-fiction narrative. I see lots of unusual ephemera from around the world, which has a lot to do with Timothy Prus, the curator. He pretty much decides what we buy and whenever I’m looking at our old photographs, they will be a part of photographic history but they’ll have an off key approach. We won't be getting the most famous pieces but other unknown things that can be just as interesting, lots of amateur abstraction for example. It can help to be looking at those when I'm thinking about doing something new. You understand how many of these photographers worked really hard and obsessively on one project, photography is a good tool for the obsessive.

Speaking of off-key collections I remember an auction of vernacular photography, I'm pretty sure it was a Swann catalogue I’d been looking at, where one lot had nearly 100 photographic prints of outhouses. It consisted entirely of toilets!

We probably would have bent the page of the catalogue, like ‘oooh, we'll have a go at that one!’. It was probably too expensive in the end, but we've got all sorts of catalogues in the archive, actually we have a good collection going of them from the late 80s, early 90s. You’ll see that it's always the same things being sold, but at the end there's always a small collection of stranger lots. Now there are entire auctions made up of ephemera or unknown works. It’s interesting to see, there's less of that known work, you can't find cheap Brassai at auction anymore so we have to find contemporaries of Brassai, or Cartier-Bresson, some of which are just as good.

Going back briefly to the exhibition with Vevey, I saw some videos on your Instagram feed with some bulky TV screens and video, is this all part of the same project?

Yeah, it’s all part of this project. I want to move into more moving image and I've been working with early digital cameras, using redundant photographic video technologies from the 90s, those pre-digital things that were made so well that they still work now, and have a use but in a different way. Perhaps I’ll shoot on them and use them as intended, but perhaps I’ll re-fashion them. Using old digital cameras as viewers, that's what I’m currently getting into to.

Do you consider that to be new work?

It could be new work or old, but I transfer it onto video. My original images are generally shot on 35mm film then transferred onto a different medium. I’m not always wanting to use these old technologies to shoot on, I’m using them to display things on, so it doesn't really matter. Storing an archive on different mediums is a very common thing, like it putting newspapers on to microfilm or scanning them, I’m scanning and re-recording the work onto VHS. It may seem a little pointless but it’s a way of building records and archives of my material. I have been experimenting with using the cameras but I’m not really interested in using them unless it's a rare technique like the PXL-2000, which shoots directly onto audio cassette.

So it records images on to audio tape?

It's a Fisher-Price camera that shoots black and white film footage directly onto audio tapes, it's quite complex to play it back, you can’t play it back on the camera, you've got to have the little monitor next to it, all plugged in. But for almost everything else, like the early digital cameras with their floppy disc memory cards, they’re more to upload things onto.

 
 

I wonder what is it that that you find so interesting about these redundant materials? Is there an intrigue in trying to make them work again, or something else that piqued your interest? Take the IBM punch cards, for example.

I just really like the idea with the cards that they’re paper but also that they were such an important material for early computing, they needed those flimsy punch cards to write programs and feed into the computer. There are rows of numbers on one side of them that run from 1-9 and they endlessly repeat. I like the uselessness of them, they're not fit for purpose. I print on both sides of them and when I see the numbers I feel the idea of it revealing that early computing language, the language behind electronics now, behind a mobile phone, behind whatever you're recording on there, it’s all data with zeros and ones. When I print on them I print digitally, which is all numbers, data, again, it’s right in front of you. I also like the idea of recycling, I've recycled lots of old tech, punch card is old tech but its paper, so it's more malleable I suppose, you can actually do things with it.

I visited your most recent exhibition at Roman Road, TYO2-LDN4, and looking through slide viewer piece was really intriguing, more so now after you’ve spoken about the need to light these images from behind. The light from the viewer really pushes through in particular areas of the slide, it’s almost like one of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s theatres, it is a handheld theatre!

They were the original things I looked at my work on. I’d make the work and I'd look at them in the slide viewer, and you’re in your own little world. I call it my version of VR because everyone has released really cool 3D, VR stuff, so I just introduced these instead! But it’s the history of these things that I quite like. I also source and buy a lot of those viewers online, so I’ve got all sorts of things that I look for, I guess I'm an eBay artist.

 
 

Your E.I. screens are some of my real favourites, of course the E.I. LDN photobook, but also the screens that have been disconnected and mounted in perspex. The concern that you voiced regarding a disconnect between the age of the photographic method versus the age of the buildings photographed seems to have been flipped on its head by creating the screens, despite being new tech they're now archaic and useless.

Definitely. I remember when I first got an Amazon Kindle, I was reading it and it has this strange, matt, black and white screen and I immediately thought that one of my pictures would look good on it, so I looked into how to put the pictures on there. A Kindle screen obviously wouldn't suit a David LaChapelle or a Martin Parr image as it wouldn't really translate or be helpful for their work, but it really enhanced mine, particularly because putting these images on an electronic ink screen helps to push the work further into that sci-fi aesthetic, without me deliberately doing so whilst taking the picture. I was happy when it worked, because of course I'm not a hacker. What I found is that there’s a whole community of people that wanted to read their own magazines, books and Mangas on the device, without any borders and completely unobscured, so they built programmes that made it possible. So I watched  DIY videos and read lots of forums. It’s really complicated, you have to update it to version 3.2, but if you were to go to 3.3 it wouldn’t work, 3.1 it wouldn’t work, so it’s pretty techy. There's one guy in China that wrote the program which everyone downloads, which has made it possible for these things to be made. I also remember Domingo- did you also work with him whilst with Marisa?

Yeah- Domingo Milella? The Italian photographer?

Yeah, he actually gave me the idea because he was looking at a copy of LDN E.I and he said, ‘I like this picture only- I just want that one’, but the device always goes onto a screensaver and locks itself after ten minutes. So I went back to the studio, and I thought that perhaps he's right. I wondered what happens if you pull out the screen, unplug it from the power? It just froze, it was so exciting, I thought that's great! It works and it’s important to understand that it's like a reproduction of a photograph. You can upload a picture onto it, unplug it and say it's a photograph now. Whether it is or isn't is questionable, but it’s definitely a reproduction which has been important for me with the early Collotype processes I’ve been working with. So I'd utilised early mechanical reproduction and then jumped to entirely digital reproduction.

 

Nobody makes prints like I make prints.....

A post shared by Antony Cairns (@antony_cairns) on

 

I love the way they're self referential too, to their photographic past.

I’ve just been getting more screens actually. I’ve got a show or two coming up and it's been pretty successful as a project. People really like both the screens and the book, or I suppose the digital photobook. It went on to link to when I went away for the Hariban Award and learnt how to print Collotypes, which is one of the oldest ways of making a photo mechanical reproduction. So it's this whole cycle of photography and how photography wants to reproduced anyway it can be.

It's quite interesting because there seems to be quite a focus on Japanese photography as of late, a shift from dominant European or American photography. I know you've spent a lot of time in there when you've been printing your Collotypes.

Yeah I had to go twice for that, and then again for the Daikanyama art fair, so I’ve been there a few times now. They've got their own scene going on, Daisuke Yokota is really great, and they’re of course masters of the high contrast, black and white street photography of the 60s or 70s. Quite radical imagery but I mean, it's always been there, there's maybe more of a focus on looking back at the history of it with people like Simon [Baker] being big advocates.

It's very much a case of looking back, it's giving a platform to those talented photographers that had never really entered the canon. I'm surprised about the number of initiatives in India for example, but people are understanding the importance of the perspectives these different voices can offer the world, offer wider discourse. Could you tell me more about your time spent at the Benrido Collotype Atelier?

Kyoto is such a cool place, it's like 108-years-old or something, so it's a great place to go to and learn how to print, especially with me being a black and white printer who loves being in the darkroom. I've always wanted to be a fine art black and white printer, but when I left university and went to try to get a job doing just that, all the darkrooms were closing as they'd all gone digital. So I lost hope of doing anything like that, and that's when I decided to be a bit more experimental and a bit more rough-and-ready when I print. It’s more like I shoot now. I kind of do it, not as an experience really, but I'll print something on the day, and however it comes out, that’s the way it is. So I’ve moved in a different directtion, whereas these guys at the atelier work to become master printers. They’re such perfectionists over every tiny thing and it was fun because there was a bit of clash between us. Even during the residency I was saying to give certain prints one more go then we should move on, but they had no idea what I was talking about. They thought if it wasn’t right, we kept going till it was correct, but then they began to understand my aesthetic more, so they were happy. What I really liked from being there is the fact that the actual glass plates that you print with, which I exhibited in TYO2-LDN4, is the real photographic object, the resulting prints, the ink-on-paper prints are a mechanical photographic print, not real photographs. The glass is still actually a photograph as you're using silver gelatin. At the final exhibition there I exhibited the glass plates alongside the prints, and they also show the glass plates now! They found it quite interesting. I had such a nice time with them and we made lots of work together.

 

OSC Collotype Portfolio, 2015 © Antony Cairns

 

I’ve seen the video where you speak about your time during the residency, and it seems like a nice dynamic between you both, a bit of push and pull, you seem to be learning from each other.

Yeah, they work you quite hard! You have to do a lot of things whilst you're there. You get up early every morning, but they take you out quite late as well so there are some rather long days. I found them really great to work with, particularly the translator, and Osamu who is the printer who has been there for 36 years, printing Collotypes. He’s an amazing guy, because after the residency I went there again, and again... and the third time I went there, I’d asked them to prepare me some glass plates and I'd finish them off at home myself to use them to print, but they were saying I wouldn't be able to do it. I thought I could try, but in the end Osamu says ‘you come in and I'll print them with you, and show you how to do it.’ So I spent a whole day with him which is priceless, I don't know anybody else that gets taken around. His response to anyone else would be ‘no- I'm working with Tony all day’. No translator, just me and him, bouncing back and forth between my bad Japanese and his bad English. But it worked well, and I ended up printing a whole series myself with his guidance, it was one of the best things I've ever done.

 

Biography

Born 1980, UK
Lives and works in London

Social

Website: antony-cairns.co.uk
Instagram: @antony_cairns

 
 
 
FeatureLaura Norman