Taylor is studying a Masters in Contemporary Art at UniSA and was recently selected by Capture Magazine as a pick in their category of Top 10 Emerging Photographers. So let’s use one of those pictures as our starting off point.
Thanks for the chat Taylor – tell us what it’s all about then.
“The three photos I submitted to Capture were all part of my graduate work last year. It’s a project about spaces of science and research. It’s about places built with implied function as a priority. But they still exhibit accidental aesthetics; that’s a sort of working title for my project actually. Their aesthetic comes as a by-product of their function; they’re clean, bright, symmetrical, which is fascinating for me because that’s something that’s been interesting for me in my work previously. There’s also the idea of seeing these spaces which are in a way hidden worlds. There’s a meeting of art and science in these spaces; it’s sort of unintentional. In making this work I’m documenting rather than creating.”
One thing that grabbed me about these was that they are so unlike a publicity brochure shot for the New RAH or whatever. There are no people; it’s almost like there’s a bunch of people in white coats somewhere who have just stepped out of the room.
“Well that’s exactly right; the spaces are empty. They have just been used, or they’re set up for use, but they’re empty. There’s an aesthetic that a lack of people creates in these spaces.”
What do you think of the idea that if there are people in the shots; for example if it’s a shot for a brochure then it’s fake, it’s a set up, so these shots you’re making are actually more real? They also have a narrative of the use of space that is very authentic.
“Yes, and I think that’s where I can inject my strengths and my interests in things like composition, balance, symmetry. I’m going into these spaces with my artistic sense; I’m not just taking a picture to showcase them. It’s a slow process, where I absorb the space; I’m looking at it with a different eye. I’m also developing my own eye with these, developing my own style. Because I also work commercially in architecture and real estate I was thinking – how do I get inside these spaces and avoid that – avoid that look. It turned out not to be an issue, because it’s a completely different type of mindset, because I’m there knowing I’m creating artworks.”
Okay – that’s a good point to talk a bit about your background; you have a Bachelors degree in Visual Art and you’re now doing your Masters in Design in Contemporary Art, and you’re working a bit in commercial areas, as one does, to make money along the way.
“Yes, real estate, architecture – the bits and pieces that you do.”
Right – I didn’t know that when I first saw the work, but it seemed to me that these are so far removed from that type of stuff – it’s part of what makes them sing I think. So you are now pursuing a fine art academic career; is that right?
“Yes, with Covid last year I had to put my new work on hold and go back to previous work, but now I’m diving into this new work, thinking more about this new project, about this and how it fits into the world of fine art. You don’t see work like this hanging in galleries and I think, well, why shouldn’t you? I’m able to combine a passion for photography with this interest in things to do with science and technology. To me – in these spaces – some of the things they are creating are like an art. It’s amazing, and we don’t see that normally within that world of art. Having had some recognition for the work – within the sphere of fine art – is amazing, because it means that there is a broader interest for my work than just me. Knowing there’s a viewing audience for this work is important.”
Looking at this new project there seems such a narrative there; a bit like a moment in an interrupted human story. But there was something that also grabbed me from an aesthetic sense, and I found it perhaps more intriguing than the earlier project – perhaps more personal? Maybe it’s because in the earlier work I could see the Influences of Jeffrey Smart and Mark Kimber and I could use that as a shortcut and think – Oh yeah, I see what he’s doing here. But with this later work it was more a case of – What the hell is he doing here? It was more mysterious.
“Well, I guess the exteriors, the mundane, is not a new idea, and this work is not new either I guess, but it’s perhaps a lot less familiar. It’s similar to the other work in that it is taking the familiar but putting it in a different context. I’m showing these spaces in a different way, in a way that the people who use the spaces don’t see.”
So you’re giving the viewer an invitation; inviting them to go with you down this path…
“And that’s exactly how I feel – even with the exterior shots as well. There’s a bit of a danger in the world of art; there’s the artist statement, but I don’t like these overly conceptual, overly wordy statements trying to justify what you’re looking at. You just need to tell me enough to get me interested. I can’t force the audience through the door, but I can open it and invite them in. I mean, your work needs to make that first impression, but then it needs a second impression, and a third impression.”
Well put; that seems to sum it up beautifully. Thanks for opening the door and thanks for the chat.
Taylor’s work can be seen on his Instagram account @taylorparham.
Image copyright: Taylor Parham.
Text copyright: Taylor Parham and David Hume.