Benjamin Borley is a U.K. based photographer always on the look out for new and interesting projects. His photos are full of deep intentions. Today, Yareah magazine would like to understand Benjamin Borley’s intentions and goals.
Hi, Benjamin. First of all, let’s say that we are humble to interview you. It’s an honor for me and for Yareah Magazine. Thank you very much for accepting. Let’s begin –and I know they have asked you thousands of times-: why did you decide for photography and not for painting or sculpting? When did you begin to be interested in Photography?
Well, thank you very much for your interest but I feel I should warn you that I’m a better photographer than I am an interviewee. At least I hope so! I’m also a better photographer than I am a painter or sculptor though I dabbled a little with both when I was younger. And I think the reason is that photography allows me to have a more unmediated, a more immediate, grasp of my subject. This is even more apparent with the advent of digital photography, which is when I became seriously interested in the possibilities of the medium, because being no longer at the mercy of the vagaries of film stock, or of developers or darkrooms, was a liberation both in terms of the immediacy of the real world but also, perhaps paradoxically, the potential for self expression.
When I was preparing this interview I’ve taken a look at your street photos and they impressed me very much. We can see many portraits of different people. They are very suggestive and they look like to be projecting a new meaning, a new personal and very subjective vision. Maybe I am wrong but when I saw them I feel something strange, like if you were trying to abstract the soul from the bustling streets. Even in the self-portraits it looks like a dark view on your photos… (and here the question comes, sorry). What’s your intention when you take a photo? Have you got a previous intention or you let go to find the inspiration?
It varies, sometimes I have a very specific idea of what I want to achieve and other times it’s quite intuitive. Often a series will start out in quite an intuitive way but as I look at the results, at what works and what doesn’t, I’ll refine my ideas and become a little bit more targeted. But at the same time I try and resist it becoming formulaic. With the street work it started out very free but before long I was spending an awful amount of time looking for the ‘right’ face, a face that spoke to me, that was both individual and universal at the same time, but when I saw the right face then all my preconceptions would drop and intuition would take over again. I think part of the reason I haven’t done any street work in a few months is that whole days began to go by without me even raising my camera!
When I was watching your landscape photos I had the same feeling than when I looked at your characters because it seemed that there was a continuation in your work. I mean, you can hear the sound of the wind, sounds composed with colors and compositions and I imagined, sorry I was a writer, those characters living there. Are you trying to compose a world? Have your photos continuity between them?
That’s a really good question because up until quite recently I wasn’t sure whether there was a link between the portraits and the landscapes but with my current exhibition, ‘the sea is all about us’, I wanted to examine that relationship because I think there is a connection. And certainly there’s a historical connection as well because, certainly in terms of Western art, there’s a long period between antiquity and the renaissance when the landscape was forgotten as a genre in it’s own right and only used as a stage for people or a backdrop for portraits. So I see what you mean about the landscapes being inhabited by the people in my portraits, though I think they stand alone in their own right, but am I trying to compose a world? I’m not so sure, but I think I’m trying to present the world as it appears to me so maybe I am.
Now a professional question, sorry. You know Yareah Magazine is an internet magazine and in these times internet is changing the understanding of the world for many people. Do you think that this change is going to be good or bad for photographers? How can you imagine this world for a professional photographer in ten years? Will it be different?
I think overall the internet is a positive thing for photographers. Theoretically it’s never been easier to get your work seen worldwide by a generally visually literate audience, or at least an audience that has an interest in photography. Though because the internet is so vast and so much content is published each day whether anyone ever actually gets to see that work is another question. And of course it’s easy to forget that there is a world outside the internet. In my current exhibition the portraits are over a metre wide so looking at one in real life is an entirely different experience from seeing one on your laptop or, even worse, your phone! But overall I’m positive, I think with the increasing ubiquity of video devices and as the internet gets faster, video will gradually come to take much of the representational demands of photography, much like photography did with painting, leaving photographers freer to pursue their personal visions and convince the last remaining skeptics that it can actually be an art form!
Now I would like to make an experiment. Try to imagine the perfect photo for you and describe us. How would it be?
That’s a very interesting question. Before I started pursuing my own photography seriously I wrote a very bad novel whose central character was a young photographer who himself was trying to take the perfect photograph. In the book he died in the process and it was left up to his friend, someone who had always doubted that a perfect photograph could exist, to recognize his success. But of course that was fiction. In real life there’s no such thing as a perfect photograph, not even for me, and that’s a good thing because it gives me a reason to carry on and also, because if there was, Andreas Gursky would already have taken it!
6.- Can you choose one of your photos? Tell us, what’s your favorite and why?
I think in many ways that’s quite closely related to your previous question. For the same reasons I try not have favourites. There’s an old adage amongst photographers that you’re only as good as your last photograph but I think it’s truer, for me at least, to say that I’m only as good as my next photograph.
And to finish, forced question: How about your next projects?
I like to be working on a couple of different things at any time so as well as looking to continue exploring the relationship between landscape and portrait I’m also working on a series of still lives at the moment. It’s not a genre I’ve explored in much depth so I’m really enjoying the change. I’m looking at contemporary objects in a very abstracted, almost Platonic, way so perhaps I am pursuing the perfect photograph after all!
Many thanks, Benjamin. It was an honor. Thank you very much!
Benjamin Borley site: http://benjaminjborley.tumblr.com/