Cultural and Social Documentary Photographer based in the North of England.

Currently studying for an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication.

PHOTOGRAPHY

‘I was living in Monterey, a place where the classic photographers – the Westons, Wynn Bullock and Ansel Adams – came for a privileged view of nature. But my daily life very rarely took me to Point Lobos or Yosemite; it took me to shopping centers, and gas stations and all the other unhealthy growth that flourished beside the highway. It was a landscape that no one else had much interest in looking at. Other than me.’
Lewis Baltz

I’ve always felt like a tourist. Slightly detached, a spectator.

The North East is witnessing growth, reduction, affluent expansion and paradoxical decay. It is rich with social and economic contradictions. Many of the towns, cities and villages have a powerful industrial and cultural heritage. It is an area undergoing change, (re)construction, austerity and much-needed development. In many ways, the region has a lot in common with the landscapes that came under scrutiny by the New Topographic artists of the 70s, whose photographs questioned the distinction between cultural and natural landscapes.

I have lived and worked in the North East for many years; it is an area full of beauty, tranquillity, ugliness and desperation. It is also a place of loyalty, persistence, and hope. Areas such as County Durham, Teesside, Tyneside and North Yorkshire have many photographic stories to be told and shared. Some of this is open and obvious, nonetheless, there is a need for investigating below the surface (sometimes literally). Overwhelmingly, all the stories lie within the industries (past and present), the people and communities.

Ultimately, these locations need decoding, they are places to stop and browse and consider their enigmas. Logically, photography has served as a guide, a tool of analysis and inspection, it has become my codebreaker, a deciphering mechanism and a jotter. I naturally gravitate towards rewriting the maps of wherever I happen to be – my hometown, place of work, a weekend get-away… These are often well-trodden paths, yet they persistently reverberate with narrative and mystery, in turn, they offer conditions for translation and scrutiny.

People make places; with passing years, decades or simply just days and hours, these places become incredible records of their own presence.

These images are fleeting instants, examples where the quotidian becomes open, places unfold to welcome temporality and where landscapes develop a sensitive home for the prosaic.

I am keen to explore the idea or the feeling of instability, as humans we are inconsistent and even with systems of regulation and apparent orderliness, most things are not as they seem. Despite obvious organisation, not everything can be controlled.

Such issues are not easy to communicate either verbally or through illustration. It has been my hope that this short body of (ongoing) work goes some way to providing certain clues as to what lies below the surface.

Simon Denison writes:

‘…it is not so much the overlooked beauty of the world that such artists respond to, but rather the capacity of the everyday world, fragmented into the rectilinear shapes of photographs, to make extraordinary pictures… obvious perhaps to some, but too frequently forgotten. Photographs confine the infinite, they fix shapes and relationships, they anchor the world and so construct something new… landscapes are neither depicted for factual information, nor as celebrations of the beauties of the world, nor idealised for sentimental or sublime effect; they are represented instead as repositories of human experience, and triggers for introspection and memory. ‘

“It’s Out there man. Don’t you hear it?”
Dizzy Gillespie

 

PAINTING

Generally, my work concerns itself with the versatility of symbols and signs, as well as the dialogue and descriptive structures produced in the visual and theoretical situations that these forms depict. The work employs vocabularies that quote and question the familiar, the surreal, commercialism, the comic, everyday detritus, the abstract, the historical and the personal. These images are segregated, mutated or married together in the hope of discovering foreign, nonsensical or even liberated territories.

I have more dilemmas regarding what to paint rather than how to paint it. I fear that one day I may run out of ideas.

When it comes to materials and processes I don’t discriminate. Acrylic, oil, ink, pastel, spray paint, transfers, emulsion, pencil, pen, chalk… the luxury of passing time, the dusty glazes of lapsed months, the vulnerable patinas, spillages, the fading… the re-working.

Contact

rhysbaker@gmail.com

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