Interview with CG Watkins PART1
interview : yoshiko kurata
(C) CG Watkins / 10 magazine GUCCI
「QUOTATION」VOL.23でインタビューしたフォトグラファー、CG Watkinsインタビュー PART1（英語のみ。日本語は本誌にて掲載中）
– Please tell me about your childhood and background.
A lot of my childhood felt “in transit”. Due to my father’s work as an engineer, my family moved back-and-forth between London and Perth, Australia many times. Within each city we also moved between houses pretty frequently, never staying in one place for longer than 2 or 3 years. But I spent what could be called “my formative years”, 8-15 years old, in the suburban surrounds of Perth. I grew up mostly with my sister, my mother, and my mother’s record collection. Despite some turbulent times, I always felt grounded, as my Mum, despite working long hours each day, was a total anchor. To me, it felt like a typical 80s-90s lower-middle-class childhood.
There were never any artists in the family, but I was surrounded by good music and a strong work ethic, which I felt could be applied to anything I wanted to do. At the time, the suburban landscape of Perth was, to say the least, not inspiring to me at all. I was already a daydreamer, and the mundanity of my surroundings amplified this. So, a completely misspent childhood of too many videos and video games! But when I became a teen, I started getting out more.
You could say that my friends and I got up to no good. This was before the internet. I can’t emphasise enough how little cultural stimulation there was. TV, radio, shopping malls and the cinema were our only exposure to the outside world, so we resorted to amusing ourselves with knives, blowing things up and listening to rap and metal records. As a result of these little adventures I discovered more of the city and the people within it. Quarries, skyscraper districts, lakes, deserted malls, wild forests, beaches…. Many landscapes that I then found empty and draining but, as you can see, feature heavily in my work nowadays. I could never have realised at the time how inspirational these experiences would become later on.
– When was the the first time you used a camera?
I feel bad, I can’t remember the first time I used a camera, I know that photographers are supposed to! It was probably when I was quite young, playing with my Mum’s old 110 compact camera. I remember pretending I was spy with it, feeling military when I loaded the film cartridge, looking at people watching television through the windows of our neighbours houses….
The time I remember realising what a camera was really capable of was in my 8th grade media studies class. As a kid I had always been an observer, often remaining quiet and watching the behaviour and features of the people around me. My Mum used to have to stop me from staring. But when I picked up an SLR in this class and started walking around the campus of my high school, taking photos of people, watching them from the shadows or approaching them to take their portrait, I realised that the camera gave me a license to observe them. It’s rude to stare, but flattering to take a photograph.
– What got you into photography?
I think my interest in photography was born from my mixture of escapism and boredom. Escapism that led to my misspent youth of obsessively watching films, which inspired me visually and in turn gave me the urge to document the things that boredom drove me and my friends to do. Especially when I arrived in London, at age 15. I was living alone, and everything was new to me. Skating, playing in bands, the odd petty crime…. Having the camera gave me an extra reason for being there, and in trying to immortalise the moments, the process made sure I remembered them more clearly.
All I ever wanted to be was a film director, maybe even still now. Documenting something visually, and sharing it with other people, on any level, is a process that constantly amazes me, even now. I don’t remember much of my early childhood clearly, but I have a very vivid memory of one particular night, when I couldn’t sleep, going to our living room and turning on the TV. What came on the screen was Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, somewhere around the 20 minute mark, and I was mesmerised until the end. The omnipresent visuals made me feel so small, and simultaneously I was having my mind blown by the Philip Glass soundtrack. The experience made me realise what I wanted to do, I wanted to encounter everyone, see everything, and somehow record it. I think I was around 9 years old.
– The texture of your photography is analogue, but sometimes the light and colour feels otherworldly or futuristic. What is the main axis of your photography, the common thread that runs through each of your projects, no matter editorial or personal?
I do mostly shoot on film, but it’s not necessarily because I’m a purist. A good photo is a good photo, no matter how it’s captured. Personally, I’m drawn to film as a format because it has limitations. Knowing that I have a limited amount of frames makes me concentrate more on what I’m shooting, I have to try and perfect the image before I press the shutter. Also, the possibilities of post-production and retouching are more limited with film, which suits me fine as I prefer not to modify anything other than the contrast and colours in an image. I’m sure this attitude comes from having started my photography before the digital era, having learnt in the darkroom. But I’m more than happy to shoot digitally on some projects, I’m just less “precious”.
As for a common thread, a thing that runs through all my work, I’d have to say believability. Or at least the playing with it. Many of the people and places that I’ve shot in my documentary work are, for me, bordering on the unbelievable, and in my fashion work I try to portray scenarios and characters that are real, imperfect and believable. I like to blur the lines between the two sides of my work. Apply the same approach to both the mundane and the fantastical.
– Please tell me your process of shooting.
It depends what I’m shooting, and why. If I’m shooting a personal series, most likely documentary images or portraits, then I like to research what I’m shooting, enter it’s space, relax, and simply be exposed to it. Whether it’s a place, a social group or an individual, I avoid direction and remain open to what’s happening in front of me. In contrast, if I’m shooting a fashion editorial I feel I have to control things more, direct the ideas and the models, try to create scenes and characters that have that sense of believability I mentioned. I like to create a scene, give some ideas and inspiration to the team and see what happens.
In both cases, I try to remain as mobile and spontaneous as possible. Whether the situation I’m in is someone else’s space or one that I created, I just want to see what happens, and try to capture the moments that surprise me.
(C) CG Watkins / COTTWEILER SS15 Campaign
(C) CG Watkins / K POP