NC: How did you develop your niche?
Stephen Gill: Really tricky; I found it by ‘reacting against’. The medium has worked so long that eventually you will hit parameters, almost like a glass wall. With ‘Hackney Flowers’ I wanted to try to listen to subjects not to impose my thoughts; I wanted the outcome to depend on the extraction of subject matter rather than just simply describe. I think by collaborating with places and subjects deliberately can mean you as a photographer, will have less control. Essentially it all depends on the subject to define your niche.
NC: How would you define you style of work?
Stephen Gill: I learnt to be more experimental, I do consider myself a straight descriptive photographer, however, I can’t convey all my ideas using photography, and hence why I incorporate other elements. Where it started as hobby and I’ve stayed true to that, looking at my current and recent projects, I can trace work back to my earliest projects- critical work.
NC: Are there specific areas one should focus on if wanting to pursue a career in documentary/fine art photography?
Stephen Gill: Oh, good question. For me, I would advise you to lean away from thinking of audience. I focus on subjects that fascinate me. You should always stay loyal to the subject, not focusing on producing a body of work with the aim to please people. Learn to bypass words for art to take stage, translate thoughts not into words but into photographs. Also, listen to your subject; I always listen so I can work out the best way to execute ideas.
NC: Do you have a highlight throughout your photographic career?
Stephen Gill: That’s difficult to say, reacting against is something I’ve always practiced. In the early 2000’s photography began evolving to become more technical, which suffocated content and introduced new technique. ‘Hackney Wick’ and ‘Hackney Flowers’ were big for me. Before, my work was always straight descriptive, however, I feel that those projects helped to change me as a photographer. Now, the subject coaches me, which I suppose means the work makes itself.
NC: You stress the importance of the relationship between photographer and subject; this resonates with me, as when working on a project, I always interview my subjects as a prerequisite before shooting.
Stephen Gill: The synthesis of interviewing, yes. I am fascinated with work which reflects time we live in, in a non-direct way. Therefore, interacting with subjects is incredibly important.
Me: Any last words of advice for an aspiring fine art photographer?
Stephen Gill: Always have motivations behind everything you do, work in a standard way and stay loyal to your subject and concept, forget the viewer. Immerse yourself entirely in a project- ‘Hackney Flowers’ took 3 years; I love projects where I can become obsessed with theories. At the end of it, you will have either exhausted the subject or the subject will have exhausted you.